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Montgomery's Environmental Commission Honors Local Activists

By Barbara A. Preston | January 15, 2022

Montgomery Township teenager Annabelle Wang became a local environmentalist one rainy day when she noticed a continuous current of water sweeping pollutants off the super large Montgomery High School parking lot, down drains, and into Montgomery waterways.

The Montgomery Environmental Commission awarded her a trophy recently in recognition of her advocacy work. She has educated the public about clean water through articles in The Montgomery News, and a video she created for World Water Day. Two other residents and three organizations were also recognized for their outstanding sustainability accomplishments.

Montgomery High School student Annabelle Wang is an environmentalist, a National Merit Scholar, and a volunteer journalist for The Montgomery News.
"Take a moment to look around at the streams in your neighborhoods and realize that ... we cannot exist without the water." — Annabelle Wang

Wang says that "managing water can be fun, and pretty, like creating a rain garden." She presented her idea to the Montgomery Environmental Commission to build a rain garden at the high school. "It could be a great community resource, where students could learn about how our impact [on the environment] could be easily ... managed," she said.

The first annual Montgomery Township Environmental Awards program honored three residents and three organizations for their outstanding sustainability accomplishments in 2021. The township’s environmental commission developed these awards to recognize people who work to protect air, water, and the natural landscape, as well as environmental outreach and education efforts in our community.

“This awards program brings recognition to the unsung heroes in town whose efforts help sustain a healthy environment for all of us," said Environmental Commission Chairperson Mary Reece. "There is notable progress being achieved through the quiet, hard work of our residents, nonprofits, and businesses. Congratulations and keep it up!”

Montgomery Township was able to meet Silver Level Certification in the Sustainable Jersey program for the first time ever in 2021, having been a bronze certificate holder since 2009.

Montgomery Environmental Award Winners

Annabelle Wang (Water Resources) for her advocacy work in educating the public about clean water and other environmental matters through articles (NJ to Phase Out Straws) she volunteered to write for The Montgomery News.

Montgomery Friends of Open Space (Environmental Education) for their efforts in hosting educational events like ‘First Sundays in the Park’, and providing for educational displays/info at the weekly Farmers Market, which they operate.

Technician X (Healthy & Sustainable Business) for providing electronics and toner recycling, ensuring materials are disposed of properly (longtime Earth Day Fair partner).

Kevin Burkman (Landowner of the Year) for his work to plant over 100 different native species in his yard, creating an oasis for pollinators.

Princeton Volkswagen Dealership (Climate Change and Clean Air) for installing a publicly-accessible electric vehicle charging station.

Donato Nieman (Municipal Advocate) for his work over the past 20+ years as Township Administrator to support forward-thinking environmental policies and municipal operating practices.

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A formal awards ceremony recognizing each recipient took place on December 16. Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan praised each award recipient for their outstanding work, as well as Reece and the Environmental Commission for launching this new program. Reece credited Frank Derby, a long time Environmental Commission/Sustainable Montgomery member, with envisioning the new awards. Derby is also a primary organizer of Montgomery’s Earth Day Recycling Fair each year.

Any resident can nominate an environmental champion for an award. Watch out for a 2022 nominations solicitation release by this summer. Further info on the recent winners and nomination and judging criteria for 2022 may be found on the Montgomery Earth Day Fair website at


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