Jeff Tittel, one of the most consequential advocates for environmental issues in state history, announced today that he will retire in May after 23 years as state director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
“It has been a privilege and one of the greatest opportunities of my life to work for the Sierra Club for 23 years. I have fought tirelessly to protect New Jersey’s natural resources, such as the Highlands and Pinelands,” the 64-year-old Tittel said. “Over the decades I have helped write and lobby for most major environmental legislation, from the passage of the Highlands Act to the Global Warming Response Act. Through my environmental activism, I hope that I made New Jersey a better place for all of us.”
Tittel pointed out a litany of accomplishments, starting with the acquisition of Sterling Forest when Christine Todd Whitman was governor in the 1990s. He helped write the state’s Electronic Waste Recycling law, a private well testing law, and a ban on plastic bags.
He said retirement was a tough decision.
“I have so many close friends that are part of my Sierra Club family and the environmental movement,” Tittel said. “However, after being an activist for most of my life, having COVID and being home for over a year, I think that I need to move on to the next phase.”
He said he originally planned to retire in February 2022, but decided to leave earlier after participating in the Sierra Club’s voluntary leave program this year.
“This has given me the opportunity to spend more time with my spouse Barbara and my family, especially my grandchildren,” stated Tittel. “Now I will have time to travel, spend more time outdoors, and focus on other parts of my life.”
In 2009, Tittel spurned then-Gov. Jon Corzine by endorsing independent Christopher Daggett for governor. Corzine narrowly lost that race to Republican Chris Christie. Tittel was a critic of Corzine’s handling of environmental issues and later panned Christie as well.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, who was Corzine’s running mate in that election, praised Tittel’s service to New Jersey.
“It’s hard to imagine the Sierra Club without Jeff Tittel. He was never shy; never retiring; never someone who is afraid to fight for the values of the Sierra Club, as well as his own. He has contributed mightily to a cleaner environment for me and for all the generations who come after us,” Weinberg said. “His leadership will be missed, but I know he has built an organization that will continue to fight for a better, cleaner future.”
Tittel worked on the New Jersey Highlands Act, the state’s Clean Car program, a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin, and the Global Warming Response Act.
Tittel said that he came from a family of activists.
“My first sit-in was when I was four. A few years later I went to the 1963 March on Washington with my family, and I have attended hundreds more marches since then. Growing up on the Newark Hillside border, I learned about the meaning of Environmental Justice and the importance of activism from an early age,” he said. “When you threw matches at the stream it would flare up. There was a foundry down the street that left soot on the cars so that you could write on them.”