Mayors Committee for a Green Future
By Fred Profeta, Deputy Mayor for the Environment,
Maplewood Township and Chair of the Mayors
Committee for a Green Future
& Pam Mount, Mayor of Lawrence Township
and Vice-chair of the MCGF
Going green has been a source of local pride in municipalities across the state for a long time. But increasingly mayors are now jumping on the green wave to take advantage of the economic and community wellness benefits that result from implementing sustainable programs.
The Mayors Committee for a Green Future is a League of Municipalities Committee that understands the needs of New Jersey municipalities first hand. With countless speaking appearances as diverse as community green fairs and an international local government conference in Denmark, the awarding of $200,000 in sustainable project grants and the rampant success of the Sustainable Jersey municipal certification program, the Mayors Committee for a Green Future is dedicated to making New Jersey a recognized sustainable state.
Our committee includes mayors and representatives from Alexandria, Asbury Park, Boonton, Cherry Hill, Lawrence, Maplewood, Mount Arlington, Newark, Ocean City, Pleasantville, Princeton, South Orange and Trenton. We are actively promoting sustainability through education, outreach, leadership and support for municipal programs and practices that protect the environment and contribute to a better New Jersey overall.
The Mayors Committee for a Green Future was recognized with the Innovation in Green Service award by the U.S.Green Building Council.
Pictured (L to R) are Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta, Maplewood Township and Chair of the Mayor’s Committee for a Green Future(MCGF); League Executive Director
Bill Dressel; Mayor Arthur Ondish, Mount Arlington, member of the League Executive Board and the MCGF; and Florence Block, Executive Director, MCGF.
Change Happens at the Local Level The Mayors Committee for a Green Future got its start in 2006, when Bill Dressel, the League’s Executive Director, met with two environmentally committed mayors, Meryl Frank of Highland Park and Fred Profeta of Maplewood. The three agreed upon the goal of fostering environmental progress throughout the state at the local level.
Our committee believes that real progress and change must occur at the local level. There is more direct accountability when municipalities are involved. So much environmental degradation is caused by individual actions, from the cars we drive to the food we eat. As we reach the 566 municipalities in New Jersey, these towns provide direct access to inspire and educate residents, businesses—everyday folk that need to hear the message.
After several meetings with environmental leaders and technical experts, the first committee actions were put in motion. Most notably, the Sustainable Jersey program was conceived in 2007 and then initiated in February 2009.
Sustainable Jersey The Mayors Committee for a Green Future joined forces with the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey and the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University to launch the highly successfully Sustainable Jersey program. On February 26, 2009, Sustainable Jersey began with a press conference and words of inspiration from Governor Jon Corzine and an impressive list of project sponsors. Sustainable Jersey is a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, control costs and save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.
New Jersey is one of the first states in the nation to have a municipal certification program for sustainability. Sustainable Jersey identifies actions that define what communities must achieve. It provides tools and guidance to enable communities to make progress and links incentives for municipalities that are making progress.
The Sustainable Jersey certification being offered in 2009 is the lowest level of certification. In future years, more levels of certification, connoting more progress toward sustainability, will be added. We are excited that as municipalities achieve certification, and implement balanced sustainability programs, New Jersey is ready to take a monumental leap forward toward its goal to be a model for innovative environmental programs. Initial feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Municipalities are telling us that the Sustainable Jersey structure and road map has transformed their conversations from “what can we do?” to “let’s get this done!”
As of August 4, 214 municipalities registered for certification. They represent all 21 New Jersey counties.
$200,000 Awarded to 14 New Jersey Towns for Sustainable Projects On June 22, 2009, the Sustainable Jersey program sponsors announced the 14 New Jersey municipalities that won Sustainable Jersey grants funded by Wal-Mart. A core element of the Sustainable Jersey program is to direct funding and resources to municipalities to aid them in making progress. Proposals were judged by an independent Blue Ribbon Selection Committee.
Grants in the amount of $25,000 were awarded to four communities: Hardwick, Livingston, Morristown and Trenton. Ten $10,000 grants were distributed to Asbury Park, Eastampton, Highland Park, Lindenwold, Maplewood, Milltown, Ocean (Monmouth County), Somers Point, Summit and Vineland. Winning projects range from a wind turbine, to rain water and community food gardens to recycling and energy community outreach programs.
NJ Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy Grant Programs The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) and their Office of Clean Energy have partnered with Sustainable Jersey to better meet the needs of municipalities working toward a sustainable future. The BPU offers numerous programs that will help municipalities score points toward their Sustainable Jersey certification. In some cases, such as the Local Government Energy Audit program, the BPU offers priority to grant funds for municipalities registered with Sustainable Jersey. In other cases, generally available funds can be applied to implement Sustainable Jersey actions.
First Annual Sustainable Jersey Awards Ceremony in November 2009 Municipalities that successfully become Sustainable Jersey certified will be recognized at the 2009 New Jersey League of Municipalities Annual Conference at the First Annual Sustainable Jersey Awards luncheon on Tuesday, November 17, 2009. In addition to a formal presentation for the towns that achieve certification, Sustainability Champion awards will be given to the top-achieving municipalities. Other honors handed out on this day will include awards for leadership, innovation and collaboration. In addition, six conference sessions will focus on sustainable topics including opportunities for funding for green projects, hot and emerging sustainability topics, and a session that provides ideas on how to inspire local communities toward action.
Mayors Committee for a Green Future Moving forward, the Mayors Committee for a Green Future will be identifying and promoting the highest-priority sustainability issues. We are developing an aggressive agenda for 2010 and hope you will join us in our quest to demonstrate that local action and leadership are key to providing a more sustainable tomorrow for our communities and the generations to come.
To learn more about the Mayors Committee for a Green Future visit www.njslom.org/Green_Future_committee.html
To learn more about the Sustainable Jersey certification visit www.sustainablejersey.com.
This article was originally published in New Jersey Municipalities magazine. Vol. 86, No. 7, October 2009