August 23, 2017

Going Green with the Wilsons

Written By Pam Laughlin

As a former liaison to the Raritan Borough Environmental Commission, Raritan Councilwoman Maureen Wilson, was ready to “walk the talk.”  For this Raritan couple, Maureen and Jim Wilson, “Going Green” all started innocently enough when their eldest son, Bobby, asked his father, “Dad, have you ever considered getting a hybrid car to save on gas?”

Jim commuted daily to New York City and his son’s question got him thinking.  Getting almost 50 miles per gallon and a 25 percent discount on bridge and tunnel tolls from EZ Pass-sounded pretty good and resulted with a new Toyota Prius parked in the driveway.  That was the beginning of this family’s “green movement.“

Both Maureen and Jim admit, “We need to learn (about green initiatives) from our children’s generation.  Now our children are teaching us!”

And as things often go, one good thing led into the next.  Jim enrolled in a compost class conducted at the Ted Blum 4-H Center of Somerset County and learned how to properly compost.  Everything from paper plates to coffee grinds now gets composted.  “It’s so much easier than we thought it would be and composting has actually become a way of life for us” says Maureen. 

This rich, compost goes right back into the vegetable garden to amend the naturally shale soil so prevalent in Raritan.   Fresh tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, basil and herbs never looked better.  It’s become a community project with neighbors dropping off coffee grinds, tea bags and other compostable materials in exchange for a fresh bunch of basil, or tomatoes to add to their salad.  “I love it because everything gets used and put back into the earth.  We even gave away our unripe, green tomatoes at the end of the season for a neighbor to pickle,’ laughs Maureen.

But perhaps the biggest green project to date was the installation of solar panels located on the southern side of the roof on the couple’s home.  Since New Jersey has one of the highest electric rates in the nation-and no one likes paying their electric bill – the Wilsons decided to do something about it.  They contacted Trinity Solar to see if they would be good candidates (requirements include access to direct sunlight) and before they knew it they were the proud owners of a new solar panel system. 

By powering your appliances with solar energy you not only reduce or eliminate your electric bill, but could generate income, in the form of SREC’s in New Jersey, as well as create a positive environmental impact and lessen your dependence on costly fossil fuels.

“We got such a huge response from people walking and driving by our home, wondering what we were doing.  People stopped to ask us questions about the status of our solar panels.”  Today there are ½ dozen solar panel permits in the works in just a 2.2 square mile town.  “That’s just amazing”, comments Maureen.  Jim adds, “Our two boys kept asking us to send them pictures of the progress so it’s really become a family affair.”

What’s next for the Wilson family? Jim attended a seminar at the Upper Raritan Watershed Association, and learned that natural rain water is not only much better for your garden but saves you money in the long haul on water bills.  Equipped with a 50 gallon water drum the couple is getting ready for their next environmentally sound project.  “Now if we can only come up with a new design for this bright blue barrel so it blends in naturally with our landscaping, says” Maureen Wilson, “we’ll be all set.”

“We’ll be working on that this winter so it will be ready for Spring”, jokes Jim. I heard mention of shrink wrapping and hand painting, so let’s keep a look out!

For more information on how to go green in your own home and other eco-friendly tips, refer to these sources:

Trinity Solar is the largest solar provider in New Jersey –

SunRun provides revolutionary solar financing for homeowners –

Ted Blum 4-H Center of Somerset County –

Upper Raritan Watershed Association –

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