The Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future seeks to support communities in their efforts to protect the environment.
Membership in this exciting new Committee has swelled to 160 municipalities in the wake of the League’s November convention. The mission of the committee is “Making New Jersey green, one municipality at a time.” Created in the spring of 2006, the committee is extending its reach so rapidly that the mission is clearly a realistic one.
In the spring of 2007, the committee leadership approved a very specific three-part method to achieve its mission. The first part is to develop objective criteria by which municipalities may be known as “green.“ The second is to provide user-friendly comprehensive toolkits which will make it easier for municipalities to achieve “green” goals. The third is to seek funds to assist municipalities in the meeting of criteria and to provide rewards for that. Funding opportunities now exist under legislation that sets aside a portion of the proceeds from the auction of greenhouse gas emission allowances for local initiatives.
The committee believes that it can be the key to moving statewide environmental issues forward, such as the Global Warming Response Act, signed into law by Governor Corzine on March 6, 2007. The Act calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to pre-1990 levels by 2020, and to be cut by 80 percent of 2006 levels by the year 2050. In order to achieve these goals, the habits of individual homeowners and consumers will have to be dramatically altered. A very large percentage of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions is caused by individual citizens, not by industry or the public sector. For example, individual citizens create greenhouse gas emissions every time they turn on their lights (causing an increase in demand on coal powered plants), drive their cars (causing combustion of fossil fuels), turning up the heat in their homes (burning more fossil fuels) or in buying non-local products (increasing the emissions by the trucking industry).
The level of government best able to motivate individual citizens is the level closest to them—and that is local government. This is the rationale which underlies our mission. We believe that it is also the cause of our swelling membership. Events such as Green Fairs (one of which was held in Maplewood on October 6, 2007) provide local government with the ability to educate thousands of citizens in one day. Similar results are achieved by promoting “green” curriculum in our schools.
The first meeting of the Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future took place on July 18, 2006. Mayor Meryl Frank of Highland Park, Co-Chair of the Committee, invited many interested officials to her community, gave an overview of Highland Park as a green municipality, the philosophy behind that program, and the various green initiatives under way there. Mayor Frank explained that, “Green communities—those that are more efficient in their energy and water use, use healthier materials in building and park operations and which also save money while doing so—are becoming an important way for municipalities to increase the quality of life for their residents and employees.”
The Mayors’ Committee held its second meeting on March 15, 2007 at the Edward J. Bloustein School at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, with roughly 65 people in attendance. Speakers included Bill Dressel, Executive Director of NJLM; New Jersey Senator Bob Smith, who spoke about environmental legislation; Dr. Kevin Lyons, green purchasing expert from Rutgers University; and Jennifer Senick, Executive Director of the Rutgers Center for Green Building.
The Mayors‘ Committee considerably strengthened its resources by entering into a partnership with The Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey (MLUC) and the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University (NJSSI). Funded by a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, MLUC and NJSSI are providing resources to create the “green criteria” and the toolkits needed by the Mayors‘ Committee to meet its mission. Working with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Mayors‘ Committee, MLUC, and NJSSI convened a working group made up of experts throughout the state and across disciplines, encompassing businesses, non-governmental organizations and agencies, as well as local government members. This group is now known as the Sustainable Communities Working Group (SCWG), and is hard at work developing the needed criteria and toolkits. We will roll these out during 2008, and expect to have everything completed by the fall.
The toolkits will each address a different topic. They will constitute an easy to use web-based collection of sustainable community resources, providing guidance on how municipalities can realistically institute needed changes. For example, a toolkit on performing “energy audits” would contain:
• ‑An easy to understand guide on how to conduct energy audits
• ‑Sample RFPs and RFQs (in Word so they can be cut and pasted)
• ‑Sample cover letters
• ‑A list of qualified New Jersey vendors
• ‑Links to funding information
• ‑New Jersey case studies, with names and contact information
There will be 5 or 6 such toolkits, each on a different green topic of interest such as green building, land use and green purchasing.
Many member communities are already well on their way to achieving “green” status. I am proud to say that Maplewood is one of these. On October 13, 2007, Maplewood received a “Climate Champion of the Year” award from Clean Air-Cool Planet. Maplewood was recognized for having instituted many “green“ programs, including (1) a jitney program which takes 300 cars off the road each day, (2) a new police station with solar panels which is due to be New Jersey’s first public building LEED certified “green,” (3) a municipal commitment to lower local greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2015, (4) the accumulation of pledges from its residents to change over 5,500 light bulbs from incandescent to fluorescent in 2008 (making it the leading municipality in the United States in this category), (5) an ordinance which grants a 25 percent discount on commuter parking fees to owners of cars which get more than 40 miles per gallon of gasoline, (6) a municipal commitment to change its non-specialty fleet of motor vehicles to hybrids in 5 years, (7) a plan to construct a network of biking paths around town, (8) the development of a town Environmental Action Plan based on citizen input, (9) the holding of our first Green Fair last October, and (10) the requirement that new construction in Redevelopment Zones be LEED certified “green.“
Highland Park is another stellar community, which led the way in this area. Its 2020 Plan includes initiatives such as retrofitting of public buildings (including Borough Hall, the library and schools) for energy and water efficiency, new major redevelopment projects based on green building standards, streetscape projects which feature recycled content, and high efficiency lighting on street lamps, just to name a few.
The town of Montclair has an extensive plan which includes municipal purchase of six compressed natural gas cars, installation of LED traffic lights, proposed photovoltaic (solar electric) roof panels for municipal and school buildings, and expansion and improvement of its solid waste recycling program.
Lawrence Township has targeted reduction of waste through effective recycling, increased public transportation, promoted consumption of locally-grown, sustainably produced food, and integrated pest management.
The year 2008 will bring even more exiting green initiatives in New Jersey. Now is the time to be part of a very exciting League initiative. For more information, visit www.njslom.com/Green_Future_committee.html