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Stewardship - Frequently Asked Questions

environmental stewardship frequently asked questions'

  • What is environmental stewardship?
  • How does environmental stewardship compare to "Sustainability"?
  • Who can be an environmental steward?
  • Why should I be an environmental steward?
  • Can the NJDEP help me become an Environmental Steward?
  • Do I have to take part in this new environmental stewardship initiative?
  • How often will the NJDEP inquire about stewardship?
  • How long will verification take?
  • Do I have to prepare anything?
  • What if I have compliance issues?
  • How will the NJDEP verify stewardship?
  • Do site web links need to be included?
  • Do comments always need to be entered when giving recognition?
  • What kinds of things will the inspector look at?
  • Can I receive credit for past environmental stewardship activities/projects?
  • What doesn't count as stewardship?

  • What is environmental stewardship?

    For the purposes of NJDEP's new initiative, environmental stewardship is when a regulated entity voluntarily engages in activities that go beyond the minimum requirements, rules and regulations, resulting in a positive benefit to the environment.

    How does environmental stewardship compare to "Sustainability"?

    Environmental stewardship is generally the careful and responsible management of the environment for the present and the future. This can be seen as one of the three components of sustainability which integrates the environmental, social, and economic considerations relevant to current and future generations.

    Who can be an environmental steward? 

    Anyone can act as an environmental steward and this initiative will provide information and resources to encourage stewardship. Currently, only those who are inspected by the NJDEP for compliance with the regulations will be asked to respond to our environmental stewardship survey during the normal inspection process. Results of these surveys will both acknowledge and promote sharing of best practices.

    Why should I be an environmental steward?

    While everyone has a responsibility to pass on a healthy and safe environment to future generations, NJDEP believes that stewardship practices can save costs, add value, and potentially reduce a site's regulatory responsibilities. Practicing stewardship can be a significant investment, but one that can also pay for itself. Actual costs may involve up-front investments in time, effort and money. The biggest hurdle is often simply gathering the information and knowledge about what is possible. With the proper information and the full accounting of typically hidden costs, choices in favor of stewardship become easier and more obvious. In addition, this program offers an opportunity to be "caught" doing something good and to be acknowledged for it.

    Can the NJDEP help me become an Environmental Steward?

    The NJDEP's primary responsibility is ensuring compliance with environmental rules and regulations. NJDEP inspectors will provide some general guidance and information during planned site visits, but will not be able to respond to open requests for assistance. Inspectors will not be directly involved in helping a site develop its environmental stewardship project or activity. The NJDEP Environmental Stewardship web site at http://www.stewardship.nj.gov/ provides external web site links that will be helpful to businesses interested in becoming an Environmental Steward. Also, as the program develops, the NJDEP hopes to establish a network of Environmental Stewardship mentors who will offer assistance to other businesses.

    Do I have to take part in this new environmental stewardship initiative?

    No, the evaluation of Environmental Stewardship activities at a facility are not mandated or required by law. This is a voluntary initiative designed to give recognition to sites engaged in innovative environmental activities and/or who exhibit performance within their organization that goes beyond the minimum requirements of any existing environmental regulations.

    How often will the NJDEP inquire about stewardship?

    Stewardship surveys will be conducted during most NJDEP compliance inspections. The frequency of these inspections varies significantly by the type and size of site operations. Any NJDEP inspection will provide the opportunity for identification of changes or additional activities.

    How long will verification take?

    The NJDEP effort to capture stewardship information will depend on the level of environmental stewardship being practiced at the site. It will also depend on how well prepared and knowledgeable a site representative is when surveyed by NJDEP staff.

    Do I have to prepare anything?

    Yes. Understanding stewardship and being prepared to answer the checklist questions will help ensure both the accuracy and efficiency of the process. It will not be necessary to inundate the inspector with voluminous information. You need only to demonstrate that the stewardship activity is occurring.

    What if I have compliance issues?

    Most non-compliance will not prevent the NJDEP from recognizing stewardship efforts. It is understood that environmental regulation can be complex and extensive. Often well-meaning and responsible parties can make mistakes. The NJDEP intends to share both positives and negatives with the public and reserves the right to exclude habitually or egregiously non-complying sites.

    How will the NJDEP verify stewardship?

    Establishing that a site is in compliance will continue to be the primary focus of an inspection. Resources are not available to conclusively verify all stewardship activities at the same level that the NJDEP verifies environmental compliance. However, participants will have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the inspector that the stewardship activities are in fact occurring. The inspector will not just take your word for it; the inspector must clearly understand the activity and how it is environmentally beneficial. This will be done primarily through an interview but, at the inspector's discretion, may also include a review of certain documents, structures or processes. Also, the publication of this information provides opportunity for many to help NJDEP verify accurate responses. Customers, peers and the public have an interest in sites pursuing stewardship and living up to their claims. Misrepresenting stewardship activities leaves site operators subject to serious questions. NJDEP will reserve the right to exclude sites in the future for misrepresenting themselves.

    Do site web links need to be included?

    If a website exists, then the link needs to be provided by the facility and included in the comments.

    Do comments always need to be entered when giving recognition?

    Yes. The comments that are entered are crucial to providing a clear understanding of the action or project to the public. The comments make it clear that the action has occurred and it is worthy of recognition.

    What kinds of things will the inspector look at?

    The activities or policies that may be recognized as a part of stewardship have been organized into twenty-three different questions in a checklist format. These twenty-three questions make up the bulk of this guidance document with detailed explanations, examples and sources of additional information. At the end of this guide is a summary of the links provided.

    Can I receive credit for past environmental stewardship activities/projects?

    In order to be recognized, a stewardship activity (or its benefit) must be ongoing or have occurred within a year. Recognition can be given for a one-time change that yields on-going benefits as long as the change is not reversed and thus the benefit erased. A formulation change 6 years ago that eliminated all hazardous components from a product can be recognized as still yielding benefit, provided the same product is still being made and would still be allowed to change back (the hazards haven't since been outlawed). Similar ongoing benefits may come from water conserving changes.

    In three categories that relate to energy there is a five-year limit on recognition of ongoing benefit (questions #12 Green Building Implementation, #18 Process Energy, and #19 Transportation Energy). The five-year energy limit adjusts for the fact that costs associated with energy will always drive decisions in favor of greater efficiency. Without this time limit almost everyone could point to past improvement. If everyone got this credit it would become meaningless.

    What doesn’t count as stewardship?

    Primary business activity - Because it creates the situation of making statements about the value of one business vs. another, recognition will not be given for activities which are part of any businesses primary activities. While these are technically voluntary they are considered to be taken with a strong profit motive and not truly out of a sense of stewardship. Some examples:

    Commercial composter not credited for composting

    Solvent recycler not credited for recycling or fuel blending solvent

    Auto recycler not credited for recycling various parts or materials

    A solar cell manufacturer is not credited with renewable energy unless they have it installed on their own site.

    Burning/Waste Combustion - Many sites have suggested that burning wastes is stewardship when it displaces other fuels that would otherwise be burned.  The Department's position is that burning wastes is a last resort and is not to be encouraged.   In particular several have suggested that burning waste oil or blending solvents into fuel is stewardship.  This is not currently being recognized. 

    One exception to this rule is burning of landfill gas to generate useful energy. This is recognized because capture and burning of the gas is currently required anyway.  If this burning is harnessed to create energy, it can receive recognition so long as the project to do this was not part of an enforcement settlement.  

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    Department of Environmental Protection
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    Last Modified: June 11, 2014

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