By Karen Pyndus, Director of Communications, WEforum
She’s a force to be sure, so stay on her good side. Though they’re all her good side if you’re referring to local environmental advocate and Little Silver mom, Jennifer Borenius. No stranger to the spotlight, Jennifer employs some alternative yet effective methods to broadcast her call for environmental change. Resembling something out of a sci-fi film, you might find her sitting across from a local newscaster denouncing the use of plastic water bottles, or at a local town council meeting urging communities to reduce trash in our waterways. Since a 2016 Alaskan vacation, Jennifer has been relentlessly developing her local advocacy group, originally named We Are Shore, with a work ethic that compares to none. A grass-roots organization designed to bring sustainability to her shore community, We Are Shore began as Jen’s brainchild after visiting Alaska, where climate change has become an everyday reality for residents. She was moved by the plight of locals desperately trying to raise awareness and initiate global change by sharing their experiences with visitors to the state. During her visit, Jen saw the effects of climate change first hand and immediately wanted to help, for the sake of this beautiful North West territory and its people, but also for the future of her own coastal community back home.
She approached the problem with a “starts at home” mentality. Upon her return to Little Silver, she began to think about what could be done locally, focusing on reducing and eventually eliminating single-use plastic; notably plastic water bottles and plastic bags. If Jennifer leaves the house in the morning without her reusable water bottle or travel mug, she won’t have water or coffee that day. She believes change begins with the individual. Adjust your own habits first, and then move on to your household, friends and community. Publicizing her movement to ignite change through some unconventional means, Jennifer has appeared at numerous fundraising events, television studios and local government meetings. And she creates quite the buzz at times by appearing with sky-high spiked hair, a plastic bag dress, or an electric blue wig and body suit, to garner interest and support.
Impressed by Jennifer’s unstoppable nature and “can-do” attitude, several friends encouraged her to make contact with Carolyn DeSena, founder of WEforum, to discuss a greater platform for her outreach efforts. Both Jennifer and Carolyn share a vision of educating the individual to promote health and wellness, and from their connection the group Step-Up: Advocates Changing Tomorrow (ACT Now) was formed. Step-Up is a program encouraging individuals and communities to “step-up” their consciousness and level of commitment to creating more sustainable, eco-friendly communities through small steps. The group also teamed up with Hydrate for Life to promote the replacement of sugary drinks with water, from reusable bottles of course, and access to free, clean water. This collaborative initiative between WEforum and Jennifer is designed to promote positive environmental change, starting with families, and reaching far beyond.
Soon after Step-Up was formed, and right around the time when single-use water bottles were becoming a hot topic, Jennifer had a new idea to encourage change among the school-aged community-involve local teens. Subsequently, “Wise-Up Teen Advocacy Group (TAG)”, an organization made up of local high-school girls, was born. The basic idea was to give a voice to teens passionate about ecological outreach, and provide them with a chance to take their message on the road. Before long, with the aid and support of numerous local women, an inspired and inspiring group of girls was meeting on a regular basis to discuss how to best get their message out to their peers and even younger students. Their first presentation was to enlighten students in the Long Branch school system about the detriments of single-use plastic and the benefits of bringing your own containers. Following their visit to Long Branch, the girls stepped up their efforts presenting at Monmouth University, and then by spearheading BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) Day in the Little Silver schools. Through positive peer-pressure and the distribution of knowledge at a grade school level, the Wise-Up group hopes to spark a passion for change amongst thousands of local students, and the girls are seeing substantial results. Little Silver’s school system has responded to the call for change and adopted a ban on the sale of plastic in schools.
Over the years, Jennifer’s and the whole Step-Up committee’s tireless efforts and unbridled passion for environmental change have produced positive outcomes both locally and even farther down the Eastern seaboard to Norfolk, VA. Norfolk has recently asked for help in bringing the Step-Up program to their community to create a more eco-conscious district. And Jennifer is more than happy to share her process if it can facilitate definitive change in other communities. She hopes more communities, both local and not so local, will benefit from the efforts of Step-Up and Wise-Up, and work to adopt similar programs.
As for now, Jennifer will continue to relentlessly advocate for the basic human right for all to have access to free, clean water; and encourage others to do their part in creating a better Earth for future generations, one step at a time. It’s time for us to adopt Jennifer’s determined spirit and challenge ourselves, our homes, communities, and beyond to “Step-Up” their game and work for change. Her accomplishments to date speak for themselves, and she shows no signs of slowing down. So look out for that woman with the crazy blue hair in head-to-toe plastic, the Lady Gaga of conservation. Stop and take heed. Jennifer Borenius is committed to issuing an environmental wake-up call to those of us still residing in the proverbial Pleasantville…are you listening?