Society for Parallel Botany Exhibit at The Brunswick Window

zz Now on view: An intricate collection of fake leaves, gathered from commercial products and packaging. This exhibit was organized by artist Anne Percoco under the guise of the fictitious Society for Parallel Botany.

The project is also viewable online, and you can submit your own specimens of faux foliage to be part of the collection!

Visit at 158 Brunswick Street through the end of June.



We (humans) have created an entire kingdom of plant imagery ranging from abstract little green footballs, to fantastical baroque drawings, to naturalistic depictions. The study of Parallel Botany combines life science, anthropology, and aesthetics. While parallel species have inhabited our collective imagination for thousands of years, they now proliferate in illustrations, advertisements, logos, and decorative products. Parallel plants are as numerous and varied as non-parallel plant species, and they signify qualities such as freshness, eco-friendliness, luxury, leisure, health, beauty, growth, etc. (In contrast, non-parallel do not normally act as signifiers.)

Plants that thrive in the parallel realm, according to scientific historian Leo Lionni, are “real because we want them to be.” He continues:

“If we find them intact in our memories, the same as when we saw them before, it is because we have invested them with the image that we have of them, with the opaque skin of our own confirmation…Motionless, imperishable, isolated in an imaginary void, they seem to throw out a challenge to the ecological vortex that surrounds them.”1

As our lives (especially as city-dwellers) are increasingly divorced from direct contact with natural flora, these images can sometimes stand in for the real thing. Additionally, as biodiversity decreases in non-parallel species, the diversity and volume of parallel species seems to increase. Science journalist Brandon Keim describes our renewed focus on such species as: “…..A psychic escape from the pervasive sense that no space on our map remains blank, that civilization has filled its container and is pushing back inwards.”


This exhibition, the most public of its kind, contains local species as well as some from distant lands, and focuses exclusively on foliage. These specimens have been collected and catalogued according to their morphological characteristics, aesthetic qualities, and function in their environment. The Society would like to thank Roger Sayre of the Brunswick Window as well as exhibition assistant Kether Tomkins. Submissions of amateur collection samples are welcome through the submission form.

1 Lionni, Leo. 1977. Parallel Botany. New York: Knopf.

This website and accompanying exhibition at The Brunswick Window in Jersey City was produced by the Society for Parallel Botany and organized by Anne Percoco.

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Rutgers Landscape Architecture Students Take On Jersey City! Local Environmental Groups Sponsor Exhibits at Casa Colombo

Poster Flyer 5_28Two exhibits of Rutgers student work on Jersey City infrastructure and landmarks are at the Center for the Arts at Casa Colombo from June 11th until August 27th.  Environmental Resources and Issues: Investigations of Environmental Solutions for Jersey City is in Gallery 2. Building Studies: An Archive of Jersey City Architecture is in Gallery 3. The student work was originally shown for one evening at a Jersey City Environmental Commission meeting. Now several local environmental groups are partnering with Rutgers to broaden opportunities to engage the public and to inspire greater input from citizens to City officials about the changing landscape of Jersey City.

Reception and Viewing Hours

An opening reception is set for Thursday, June 11, 2015, from 5-8 pm, at Casa Colombo, 380 Monmouth St, Jersey City. Eldad Tarmu, vibraphonist / composer, will be performing.

The program schedule is as follows:

5 pm   Doors open for viewing exhibits in Gallery 2 and 3

6 pm   Music and refreshments in Gallery 2

6:30   Welcome from organizers in Gallery 2

6:45    Opening remarks by Rutgers curators

7:30   Questions and discussion

More information and RSVP link here -

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Is Jersey City Green ? Not In My Opinion.

Is Jersey City Green ? Not In My Opinion. Now that Earth Day is passed and much of the celebratory activities are over, I feel compelled to address the news article posted by about ‘Jersey City rated 10th greenest cities in America by online study” Folks need to understand what this ranking was referring to and how misleading it is. While many of those who live and work here know JC is not a green city – not yet anyway - it’s important to set the record straight so newcomers are informed and proper action can continue to turn Jersey City into a more sustainable and resilient community.

Unfortunately, and this frequently happens, a very narrow couple of facts, were picked up by the media and turned into a headline. This is typical in today’s news, across many subjects, and in this instance as relates to JC’s environment, those in the know refer to this as a case of GREENWASHING. To understand what GREENWASHING is and why it’s important to know it when you see it, visit this site –

Three points I want to make here, all related to transparency of information and planning opportunities. Sorry for the long post but am tired of all the advisory to keep it short and dumb things down. Hopefully this isn’t above everyone’s head and happy to answer any questions folks might have after reading this.

First –

Quick explanation of the underlying reference data for NerdWallet’s published ranking for Jersey City, simply refers to our ACCESS TO & USE OF PUBLIC TRANSIT as it relates to the density of our city’s population. According to this, the more dense our population - within which, the growing number of those who use PATH and the Light Rail system - the more green we are. Said a different way, by doing nothing more on the public transit front, if the population of Jersey City grows and more people use PATH and the Light Rail system, we will be moved up the green ladder – misleading to say the least, but the silver lining is that this is an opportunity to educate folks and invite you to participate in developing additional measures for rating how GREEN Jersey City is.

Second –

I’d like to thank our Mayor for leaning in on this data point – he’s our Mayor and should be cheering us on for small and big wins ! – but I don’t see the innovative policies he is referring to, i.e., in my mind innovation means game changing. We have modest actions in place that have not been orchestrated to relate to each other in any meaningful way, so is very difficult to build momentum toward a more sustainable and resilient city.

Lot’s of potential but no connecting of the dots by the various operational units of the City to support a meaningful Sustainability & Resiliency Agenda. Perhaps the new Innovation Team in the Mayor’s Office can bring meaningful action to such an Agenda.   Other Cities have a central focus on this as they grow and plan their future - we need to do this too.

"When Jersey City is ranked with such forward thinking cities on the environment as San Francisco and Honolulu, we know that we are making strong strides to become a more green city," Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop said in a statement.

"Our innovative policies to promote solar use, urban agriculture, rainwater reuse, increased mass transit, and biking, as well as investing millions to transform brownfields to new parks, are all contributing to how a densely populated city can become a model for sustainability," he added.

Third -

We have some big opportunities which require policy changes as interventions if we are serious about being a green city.  Policy change must be part of orchestrated strategic plan that acknowledges where we are with accurate baseline data (good start!) and provides targets for the future that are measurable and achievable.  Other cities are doing this and so can Jersey City.  For example, there is a huge surge in real estate development happening in JC but how many of these buildings will be GREEN, HIGHER PERFORMING, ENERGY EFFICIENT BUILDINGS ? If the main cause of emissions in any City are BUILDINGS (40%) and we don’t have a policy that mandates or incentivizes developers to build green (Higher Abatement Awards for Higher Green Scores ? ) then we’ve missed this boat. BTW, we scored near bottom for air quality on the same survey that indicated we were in the Top 10 Greenest Cities – while transportation and construction related activities contribute to this negative statistic, folks should know more about the relationship of standing building emissions, which contribute to ground level ozone and air quality so check out these links –


To participate in crafting REAL SUSTAINABILITY MEASURES for Jersey City, first review the City’s Sustainability Reports as part of the statewide municipal certification program Jersey City is participating in – it’s called Sustainable Jersey. That will give you a working knowledge of how this framework has identified ACTIONS municipalities can take in the areas of economic development, the environment and their social fabric to become a more Sustainable & Resilient Community. These 2011 and 2014 reports are available to the public and we have published them on our website – decide for yourself where you think we are:

While the Sustainable Jersey statewide program has managed to get over 423 NJ municipalities signed on to the program, 177 are certified, before now they have not approached the topic of REAL PERFORMANCE MEASURES for the ACTIONS outlined on their scorecard program. So while all participating municipalities are posting ACTIONS to achieve either a Bronze or Silver level of certification, a new GOLD LEVEL of certification is coming which will require performance indicators that verify progress. This new approach will be announced at Sustainable Jersey’s Summit on June 10th and ALL are welcome to attend. The kickoff of this initiative will begin with the release of their Sustainable State of the State Research Report, based on the rolled up activity of NJ municipalities participating in the program. They have invited all who are interested to offer their feedback on these state level goals, which will become the guiding performance metrics for local municipalities starting in 2016. Please Offer Your Feedback here -

Update on Sustainable Jersey’s Activities here –

Since Jersey City has voluntarily chosen to participate in the Sustainable Jersey program, why not use this scorecard program as a roadmap toward greater sustainability and resiliency ? There are tools, support systems and funding available if we coalesce our efforts and really focus on becoming a more sustainable and resilient city – we can’t manage what we don’t measure and Jersey City stakeholders should be involved in choosing the performance metrics for our City. SJC will be part of this process and we welcome those who want to work with us on that effort.

Lastly –

Get educated, look under the hood and connect the dots, act collectively to engage city officials. There are a number of orgs in Jersey City who are doing great work in one sustainability category or another (whether you know it not!), but who are not aware of the bigger picture and how their efforts are contributing to the whole. If folks take the extra step to hook into Jersey City’s Sustainability movement, it can create a 1+1=3 effect for our City. Have you asked ‘How is what I am doing contributing to the sustainability and resiliency planning efforts of Jersey City ?’ If not, now is a good time.

Here’s a good article that might inspire your thinking; Jersey City should be playing a bigger part in our region - Hoboken highlighted here

More information about various topics related to Sustainability and Resiliency can be found on SJC’s RESOURCES page here

If you would like to join SJC’s team working on Sustainability & Resiliency Measures For Jersey City, send us an email with that in the subject line –

Better Together Jersey City!



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Energy Efficiency & Water Conservation For Jersey City - Everyone Else Is Doing IT !

Not sure why its been so hard for Jersey City to focus on providing incentives for Energy Efficiency & Higher Performing Greener Buildings, but for some reason it is not happening as a policy initiative here.  Water Conservation & Energy Use in buildings are closely related - just think hot showers, laundry and kitchen dishes (home and restaurant) ! While SJC had partnered last season on a Rain Barrels initiative with the City, hoping to raise consciousness about the need for more Green Infrastructure here , this season we'd like to use the Rain Barrels initiative to raise consciousness about the importance of Water Conservation - is closely related to our Green Infrastructure advocacy efforts, but goes far beyond capturing stormwater in rain barrels; stay tuned for updates on this ~

As a salute to Earth Day 2015, SJC would like to offer the few links below, that could put you all into immediate action, saving water and lowering your energy footprints.  These are useful small steps that can make an enormous difference to the environment and our collective urban ecological footprints.

And for those who care about this stuff, SJC has brought together a bunch of useful links on the Resources page of our website - given your Earth Day focus this week, you all are invited to check it out, maybe learn something new about the environment while you're there :-)

You can visit SJC at the "Meet The Goats & Mother Earth Festival" at the Harsimus Historic Cemetery this Sunday April 26th noon - 7pm; is going to be a blast and hope to see you there.  Lots of great stuff happening around Jersey City all week long in celebration of Earth Day this Wednesday April 22nd - tune in to your favorite local media and join the fun !


GRACE H20 Conserve Water Footprint Calculator

Energy Efficiency Tips for AT HOME, AT WORK, AT SCHOOL & ON THE GO

NJ Clean Energy Office - Energy Efficiency Programs For EVERYONE

And more about what steps City officials can take, given Jersey City is participating in the Sustainable Jersey municipal certification program. We now have a Bronze level certification - we can do better.

NJ Clean Energy Program

New Jersey benefits from a state-wide program that provides incentives for clean energy projects, especially for upgrading building efficiency. The New Jersey Clean Energy Program is one of the largest and most successful in the country, and provides the foundation upon which most of the energy efficiency upgrades in the state are developed. These incentives can be used to upgrade municipal and school district buildings, as well as a wide variety of energy projects for residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Sustainable Jersey includes twelve certification actions that help municipalities make the most of these incentives, and supports overall energy planning (like carbon footprints) and building efficiency upgrades. For municipal buildings, these actions include energy tracking, audits and transition plans, as well as implementing efficiency measures. Municipalities can also get certification points for promotion and community outreach for the state's Home Performance with EnergySTAR and Direct Install programs.

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Let's Call for Green Infrastructure in Jersey City

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection needs our help! If you'vedep_small been following SJC for a while, you know that 65% of Jersey City is served by a combined sewer (rain water + sewage in one pipe) that overflows a lot. The NJDEP is re-writing the requirements to get permits to allow for these overflows and want community input. This is a great opportunity!!! We want them to require Green Infrastructure implementation to show the long term commitment to smart growth through sustainable solutions.  Please take their survey (link below) and let your voice be heard. "CSO Survey:  So that the NJDEP can better understand your community or organization’s needs as we move towards the issuance of permits and the creation of LTCPs, the NJDEP would greatly appreciate your participation in a CSO survey.  The survey is available through and the response period will close on March 16, 2015.  If you have any questions regarding the survey, please contact Jason Lonardo at 609-292-4396"

Lots of other exciting news in the world of green infrastructure in New Jersey! Check it out:

Fostering Collaboration

Growing Pains: Jersey City Contends with Aging Water Infrastructure

Urban Water Solutions Network

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