Last year, I wrote an article called Sustainable Travel Guide: New York City where I discussed my recommendations for an eco-friendly visit to the Big Apple. I then moved from New York, New York to New Brunswick, New Jersey and I thought it might be helpful to write a similar guide for my new home.
I've compiled all the eco-friendly spots I've discovered below, if you have more ideas please let me know!
When it comes to grocery shopping, I try to buy as much locally sourced, organic produce as possible. For dry goods, I prefer to buy in bulk or reduce packaging where I can. Here are some places where you can shop sustainably for groceries:
Highland Park Farmer's Market
Located at: 212 Raritan Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904
The Highland Park Farmer’s market is a quintessential community farmers market. You can buy fresh produce, quality baked goods, raw honey, and handmade soaps and more at the market. There is a large variety of local vendors, including organic farmers and food trucks. The market currently runs from 11 AM - 3 PM on Fridays.
George Street Co-op
Located at: 89 Morris St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
The George Street Co-op is a non-profit natural foods store owned and run by its members. They sell vegetarian foods with the greatest nutritional value possible, and only minimal processing or additives. Everyone is welcome to shop at the Co-op and choose from their excellent selection of fresh organic produce, bulk foods, vitamins & herbs, body care and earth-friendly products, gifts, and more.
Whole Foods - Metuchen
Located at: 645 Middlesex Ave, Metuchen, NJ 08840
Whole Foods is an eco-minded chain with natural and organic grocery items, housewares and other products. Though they are now owned by Amazon (a company you should NOT support if you care about the environment or worker’s rights), I am including Whole Foods on this list because they have a large bulk section and allow shoppers to use their own reusable containers to buy in bulk.
The Cook and the Carpenter Bake Shop
Located at: 208 Raritan Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904
The Cook and the Carpenter is an artisanal, handcrafted, small batch, stone oven bakeshop. From loaves of bread to specialty treats - their products are always fresh and never disappoint.
Cook Farmer's Market
Located at: 112 Log Cabin Rd, North Brunswick Township, NJ 08902
The Cook Farmer’s Market at Rutgers Gardens features more than 20 vendors, including the Student Farm at Rutgers Gardens.The market strives to provide a well-managed and organized marketplace for both the local farmer/producer and patron to encourage the development of local agricultural and specialty products. The market currently runs 11 AM –3 PM on Fridays.
A locally-sourced, plant-based diet has a much lower environmental footprint than a standard American diet centered on animal products. Here are my favorite local spots for a healthy vegetarian meal:
Located at: 56 Easton Ave #A, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Tacoria’s slogan is “a place where everyone can eat fresh, feel fresh, be fresh”. They serve the best tacos in town and have amazing vegetarian options (I recommend the brussel sprouts as a meat substitute). Make sure to check out their outdoor seating area in the back.
Located at: 36 College Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Honeygrow is a fast-causal chain restaurant that brings people together over the highest quality, wholesome, simple foods. They source most of their produce locally and have a chalk board that lists where each ingredient that they are currently using is from.
Located at: 53 Mine St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Playa Bowls is my go-to spot for a smoothie or acai bowl. Their website states, “what began as a pair of blenders, a patio table, and a fridge has flourished into over 83 stores, thousands of employees, and a mission to lead communities in healthy, sustainable living”.
Located at: 371 George St, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Indochine serves traditional Vietnamese food for students, commuters, and residents of New Brunswick. All of their dishes are prepared and cooked in-house to provide our customers the best possible experience in Vietnamese cuisine.
Located at: 1 Elm Row, New Brunswick NJ 08901
This 100% vegan, 100% natural, and 95% organic and fresh-made daily restaurant is unlike any other – it is a sit down, formal restaurant with outdoor seating and Sunday brunch. Dining at Veganized is a unique experience that everyone should try!
Penstock Coffee Roasters
Located at: 13 South 3rd Avenue, Suite C, Highland Park, NJ 08904
Penstock sources 85% of the coffee they roast directly from farms. The other 15% is certified coffee (Organic, Fair Trade, Bird Friendly, Rainforest Alliance, etc.) which guarantees a minimum wage and minimum sustainability. Penstock will also put your beverage directly into your own reusable mug, which is something I always value at a local coffee shop!
It's always a good idea to try to buy things secondhand before purchasing it new. Here are a few spots for thrift shopping:
Plato's Closet - Edison
Located at: 775 US-1, Edison, NJ 08817
Plato's Closet sells the latest teen/young adult clothing trends and styles. They buy used shoes, clothes, and accessories in good condition and resell them at a discounted price.
The Salvation Army and Goodwill
Located at: Various location - shown on this map
Goodwill and The Salvation Army are both charitable organizations that receive donated items from community members and resell them. It's always an adventure to shop at The Salvation Army and Goodwill!
Highland Park Garage Sale
Located at: Highland Park, NJ
Don't miss Highland Park's annual town-wide garage sale, where residents and businesses sell their stuff on their sidewalks and stoops, and others come to scoop up all the great bargains! This two-day extravaganza happens once a year - check Highland Park's website for this year's date.
Located at: cnj.craigslist.org
I have had great luck buying things directly from locals through Craigslist! Be sure to get all of your questions answered before you commit to buying anything and bring someone with you if you are uncomfortable going alone.
When I first moved to the New Brunswick area, I didn't think there would be a lot of nature to explore. But much to my surprise, there are a lot of really awesome parks and natural areas that have enabled me to get my outdoor fix without traveling too far.
Rutgers Ecological Preserve
Located at: 83 Rockafeller Rd, Piscataway, NJ 08854
The Rutgers Ecological Preserve and Natural Teaching Area is a designated 316 acre tract of land that is part of a larger 425 acre tract of undeveloped forest land. There are several hiking trails as well as active Rutgers research projects within the preserve.
D&R Canal Trail
Located at: Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park Trail, Piscataway, NJ 08854
The 70-mile Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park is one of central New Jersey's most popular recreational corridors for canoeing, jogging, hiking, bicycling, fishing and horseback riding. I once road the entire trail from Trenton, NJ to New Brunswick, NJ - learn more about my trip here.
Six Mile Run
Located at: Somerset, NJ 08873
This 3,037 acre tract of state land is a part of D&R Canal State Park. It offers pleasant walking trails through forest, along streams, and across old farm fields. There is a mountain biking trail through the park that is perfect for trail running.
Located at: Johnson Park Rd, Piscataway, NJ 08854
Located on the banks of the Raritan River in Piscataway and Highland Park, this 478 acre park is extremely popular and filled with activity all year long. A wide variety of farm and exotic animals are on display within fenced-in areas at the animal haven which is open from dawn to dusk daily.
Located at: 526 S 2nd Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904
This 90-acre riverfront park provides sports fields and courts, picnic groves, a dog park and 2 playgrounds. There is a paved loop around the park that I often jog on.
Community gardens allow those without access to private land to have a garden and grow their own produce/flowers/etc. buy renting a plot of land in a shared, community space.
Cook Organic Garden Club
Located at: 14 College Farm Rd, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
The Cook Organic Garden is located on Rutgers Cook Campus and has 78 plots that are used by faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community residents. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.
Somerset Community Garden
Located at: 1640 Amwell Rd, Somerset, NJ 08873
Being an active member of the Somerset Community Garden means connecting with people who are like you - people who want to grow their own fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. A plot costs $25 annually.
Located at: 112 Log Cabin Rd, North Brunswick Township, NJ 08902
Rutgers Gardens is a free 180-acre botanic garden, consisting of designed gardens, farms, plant collections, natural habitats, and a farmers market. They also have a Volunteer Vegetable Garden that uses organic growing methods, four-year crop rotations, green mulches, and composting to support a dynamic, living soil ecology. Attend a volunteer orientation to get started.
New Brunswick Community Garden
Located at: 178 Jones Ave, New Brunswick, NJ 08901
In the heart of New Brunswick, the New Brunswick Community Gardens grows vegetables, fruits, and flowers in raised beds, two hoop houses, and greenhouse space. They also have an apiary and small flock of chickens on site. Email email@example.com to get involved.
Located at: 40°28'40.7"N 74°26'26.0"W
The Rutgers Compost Club works to educate the community about food waste and compost. The club has a three-bin composter located in the Cook Organic Gardens that anyone can drop their compost in at any time. The club also collects food scraps in front of the Hillel Center on College Ave on Sundays from 10 - 11 AM, transporting the scraps to their bins and turning the piles 11 - 12:30 PM.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
There are several parking lots and garages around town with electric vehicle charging stations. I drive a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, so it's great to see the city supporting EVs! You can find the exact locations of the EV charging stations on my interactive map linked here or shown at the bottom of this page.
Here are some other excursions/things to do when you're in or around New Brunswick.
New Jersey Veg Fest
The New Jersey Veg Fest has a mission to make New Jersey a more compassionate, healthier and happier place to live by bringing together vegan friendly foods, products and non-profits with people of the Garden State. They hold several vegan food festivals throughout the state annually - I attended one in Secaucus last year, a short drive from New Brunswick.
Day Trip to NYC
The New Brunswick train station is located right in the middle of town and hosts the NJ Transit line, which can take you directly in to New York's Penn Station in under an hour. I love having this convenient way to go back to my old city and see friends. You can also catch trains south to Trenton or take the Amtrak to Philly, DC, Boston, and more.
Explore Rutgers' Campus
Rutgers University is the largest institution of higher education in New Jersey. Originally chartered as Queen's College on November 10, 1766, it is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Rutgers' New Brunswick Campus is the oldest and largest in the Rutgers system. Filled with historic buildings and art installations - it's a great place to go for a stroll.
New Brunswick is definitely not my dream city but I'm making the best of it while I'm here. Feel free to reach out for more recommendations and suggestions!
You can find all the locations mentioned above on this interactive map:
Click here to read my "100 Sustainable Swaps" Series
Click here to see some of my favorite sustainable living products