Grant awards will range from $10,000 to $25,000 per municipality. Awardees will be determined by a committee by the Mayors' Committee for a Green Future.
Pictured above are (l. to R.) Randall E. Solomon, Executive Director, New Jersey Sustainable State Institute; Jennifer Hoehm, Wal-Mart Senior Manager of Public
Afffairs and Government Relations; Bill Dressel, Executive Director, League of Municipalities; Fred Profeta, Maplewood's Deputy MAyor for the Environment, co-chair of Mayors' Committee for a Green Future (MCGF); Meryl Frank, Mayor, Highland Park, co-chair, MCGF; and Timothy McDonough, Mayor, Hope, League of Municipalities 1st Vice President.
Our planet is in trouble. Most people now know that. In New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation, local leaders are acutely aware of the environmental threats posed to our climate, our air, our water, our open space, our infrastructure and our health. On July 25, 2008, the Star Ledger reported that, based upon a University of Maryland study, New Jersey will face the loss of tens of billions of dollars over the next several decades from climate change—unless there is a comprehensive effort to stop it.
Local leaders are in a strong position to affect the kinds of behavioral changes that are needed to deal with the threats to our environment and way of life. Local government is the government which is closest to the people. And in New Jersey, our 566 municipalities (often thought of as a disadvantage) provide a meaningful opportunity to bring about grass-roots changes. But busy mayors and other local officials have been frustrated by the complexity of environmental issues, confusion as to best practices, and a lack of financial resources.
Help Is On the Way! A combined effort of the League of Municipalities and a couple of key partners is resulting in a focused, simple, and highly effective program for use by local governments to create and maintain the sustainable communities we need to meet the challenges of this century. The program, called The Green Future Roadmap, will be introduced at the League’s 93rd Annual Conference in Atlantic City.
The Green Future Roadmap is a comprehensive suite of tools and resources, and a municipal “green certification program.” The effort is off to a great start, recently scoring a major success when Wal-Mart Stores Inc. agreed to create a $200,000 Green Grants program to support New Jersey municipalities working to use the Green Future Roadmap.
The Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future The League’s interest in green communities began in 2006, when Executive Director Bill Dressel met with two environmentally committed mayors—Meryl Frank of Highland Park and Fred Profeta of Maplewood. The three agreed that meaningful environmental change at the local level would not occur without the leadership of a hard-working group of mayors. On July 18, 2006, Mayor Frank convened a group of municipal leaders and experts in Highland Park.
Among other things, she explained that “Green communities are becoming an important way for municipalities to increase the quality of life for their residents and employees, and save money at the same time.” The Highland Park group became the Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future, a formal subcommittee of the League. The committee is co-chaired by both Frank and Profeta (now Maplewood’s Deputy Mayor for the Environment). Over the past two years, the Mayors’ Committee has grown to over 100 municipalities. It has held a series of education sessions and planning meetings that have been attended by more than 300 municipal representatives.
At the League’s 2007 convention in Atlantic City, Co-chair Profeta announced that the mission of the Mayors’ Committee was “to make New Jersey green, one municipality at a time.” He also stated that the Committee’s first effort would be “a three-pronged approach: developing standard criteria by which communities would be known as ‘green,’ compiling simple web-based tools to assist local governments in meeting the criteria, and providing financial incentives to reward municipalities that do meet the criteria.”
By this time the Mayors’ Committee had formally joined forces with the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers (NJSSI) and the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey (MLUC), which were also working on crafting green criteria and tools. Early support for the effort also came from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Office of Smart Growth, and the Rutgers Center for Green Building.
To develop the substance of the Green Future Roadmap, these organizations put together a working group consisting of approximately 150 New Jersey leaders, experts and organizations including state agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses. Thirteen different task forces have focused on specific aspects of local greening and sustainable development. The participants are providing a high level of technical rigor, and ensuring that there will be broad support for the Roadmap. The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New Jersey Office of Smart Growth provided initial funding to NJSSI and MLUC to support the effort.
And now the Mayors’ Committee has added Wal-Mart. Through its “Green Future Grants” program, Wal-Mart will make a major contribution to the third prong of the program—the financial incentives necessary to invigorate action. Wal-Mart has generously committed $200,000 to assist municipalities in working to satisfy the program’s “green” criteria in 2009.
The Roadmap The Green Future Roadmap will be a comprehensive suite of standards, guidance materials, and financial and other incentives to help municipalities become more green and sustainable. The Roadmap will address topics such as:
• Greenhouse Gases and Energy
• Green Buildings and Facilities
• Master Planning, Zoning and Land Use
• Engaging the Community, Education and Developing a Shared Vision
• Greening Operations
• Local Economic Vitality
• Civil Society and Equity
• Natural Resources
• Healthy Environment and Wellness
• Food Systems
The Roadmap will be unveiled at the League of Municipalities Conference on November 19 and 20 in Atlantic City. On Wednesday, November 19, the League will feature a workshop session entitled, “Green Future Roadmap—How to Go Green in New Jersey.” On Thursday November 20 there will be a series of three sessions focusing on different aspects of the Roadmap. Municipalities will be able to formally enter the program, and apply for the Wal-Mart Green Grants, early in 2009.
Wal-Mart Green Grants The elected officials of the Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future know that money talks, and that without incentives and support it would be harder for municipalities to make progress. That is why the Wal-Mart Green Grants are a critical part of the effort.
According to League of Municipalities’ President, Mayor Robert L. Bowser of East Orange, “The League of Municipalities and the Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future have been working feverishly the past few years to advance the sustainability movement among our state’s municipalities. Our job just got a lot easier thanks to Wal-Mart’s generosity.”
Wal-Mart generated an enthusiastic response in 2005 when it announced a formal goal of powering the entire company with 100 percent renewable energy. It has continued to receive national attention for its efforts to promote sustainability and green its products and supply chain. Wal-Mart has a policy of creating zero waste by insisting that suppliers use reduced and biodegradable packaging. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart launched its “Cleantech Accelerator Program” to reduce negative ecological impacts while improving performance and lowering costs. Through this project Wal-Mart is looking to improve sustainability in such areas as wind harvesting, closed-loop water processing and the use of sustainable building materials in the construction of new stores.
Wal-Mart Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations, Jennifer Hoehn, said, “Wal-Mart has been a global leader in our commitment to environmental sustainability. The future is dependent on the steps that we take now to preserve and protect our planet. Wal-Mart is proud to be working with the League of Municipalities in improving the quality of life in New Jersey.”
According to NJSSI Executive Director Randall Solomon, “Wal-Mart has become a leader in corporate sustainability efforts. They are serious about it, and the Green Future Grants program will provide New Jersey’s municipalities with the means to begin taking measures to make their towns more sustainable.”
The Green Future Grants will be distributed by the League’s Education Foundation and the Mayor’s Committee for a Green Future. NJSSI will provide technical assistance. Grant awards will range from $10,000 to $25,000 per municipality. Awardees will be determined by a committee appointed by the Mayors’ Committee.
For more information on the Green Future Roadmap, go to League’s website, njslom.org, and click on The Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future.