Anna Panayiotou is the founder and chairwoman of Bayonne 2000: Cleaner and Greener, the City of Bayonne’s voluntary community forestry and clean-up group. Panayiotou, a teacher at Washington School in Bayonne, founded Cleaner and Greener five years ago with the goal of making Bayonne “a model urban forest, cleaner and greener, by the year 2000.” Like-minded teachers, students, public officials and business people joined in because they wanted to improve the environment in the community.
Thanks to Panayiotou, Cleaner and Greener brings together children and teachers from the public and private schools, forestry workers from the Bayonne Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and business supporters. Cleaner and Greener sponsors clean-up campaigns, tree-planting programs, gardening classes and guest speakers who promote cleaner and greener communities. The group also presents non-competitive awards to students for cleaning, painting and composting.
Under Panayiotou’s leadership, Bayonne 2000: Cleaner and Greener holds planning meetings involving students, teachers and public officials. They reach out to parent-teacher associations and organizations to help plan school-based activities. Cleaner and Greener activists work with the City of Bayonne on tree order forms for the general public. Ordinary residents are empowered by getting a choice of trees, flower barrels and other plant life.
Working with the City of Bayonne, Cleaner and Greener has sparked the planting of nearly 4,000 trees during the last five years, at schools and on residential and business properties. Other trees have been planted around municipal buildings and in parks. Thousands of students have learned about the environment. Hundreds of students have been involved in tree-plantings, clean-ups and other activities. Dozens of adults have taken gardening courses. The Cleaner and Greener activities have made Bayonne residents more aware of forestry and the importance of trees and the environment.
Cleaner and Greener has staged successful visits to Bayonne by Senator Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, and Tim Womick, founder of the National Trail of Trees. Municipal policy has become more tree-friendly and there is now a municipal tree ordinance. Tree-planting ceremonies have become a part of public life. The City of Bayonne has an agreement with the Bayonne Housing Authority to take care of trees at public housing projects. Panayiotou and Cleaner and Greener have earned recognition from the National Arbor Day Foundation, which recognizes Bayonne as a Tree City USA.
Anna Panayiotou has brought together volunteers with public and private sector organizations. The Bayonne 2000: Cleaner and Greener Committee is the key force for tree-planting, clean-ups and environmental consciousness-raising. The Bayonne Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation provides the manpower for a major portion of tree-planting and tree maintenance in the community. The Bayonne Board of Education encourages public school teachers and students to become involved in Cleaner and Greener activities. The McDonald’s Restaurant of 25th Street provides financial support for Cleaner and Greener programs.