Although 2009 was a hard year for many, a new program was launched that holds promise for a brighter future. Sustainable Jersey is a shining example of all that is great about New Jersey—innovative thinking, inspirational leadership and a feisty competitive spirit to “out green” ones neighbors.
Sustainable Jersey has streamlined, incentivized and guided the process of transforming the state’s 566 municipalities, many at different stages of going green, into a network of sustainable communities. The stars and partners have aligned in the first year of the program. Sustainable Jersey has ignored potential barriers and bridged connections that might just save us all. We’ve come together as academics, funders, government officials and corporations to support and grow the program.
Sustainable Jersey is a municipal certification program that identifies concrete actions that municipalities can implement to become certified. It provides clear guidance and the tools communities need to make progress. Sustainable Jersey also provides access to green grants.
Presentation of the Sustainable Jersey 2009 Leadership Award: Maplewood Township Deputy Mayor for the Environment and Chair of the League’s Mayors Committee for a Green Future Fred Profeta, Jr. accepted the 2009 Leadership Award from Sustainable Jersey. Pictured are John Watson, Deputy Commissioner, NJ Department of Environmental Protection; Joseph Fiordaliso, Commissioner, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities; Fred Profeta, Jr.; Randall Solomon, Executive Director, New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University; and Donna Drewes, Community Planner, Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey.
Program partners were pleasantly stunned when just about half of the municipalities in New Jersey registered to become Sustainable Jersey certified. In November 2009, when the year-one certification application deadline had closed, a look at the New Jersey map on the Sustainable Jersey web site spoke volumes. Pin points cover the map marking the 242 registered communities that stretch across all 21 counties. Most importantly, the map shows the 34 green pin points for towns that have achieved certification. These towns—rural, suburban and urban, led by both republicans and democrats—strive toward the common goal of sustainability and cost savings. Registrations and certification applications for the 2010 certification year are coming in now, and the program continues to grow.
Sustainable Jersey Awards Luncheon At a sold-out luncheon at the 2009 New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) conference, over 340 people helped Sustainable Jersey celebrate an exciting first year. We toasted its successes, recognized its funders and parceled out awards and kudos to the towns that had registered, been certified and accomplished the most so far.
Mayors, staff members and Community Green Team members proudly swapped stories about their savings after energy audits, the best way to start a green purchasing program and the benefits of community rain gardens. Woodbridge, Summit, Ocean City and Woodbine accepted the coveted first-ever Sustainability Champion awards for the towns that achieved the most Sustainable Jersey certification points in their respective population categories. Sustainability Champion awards were given in three population categories: Woodbridge Township (large), Woodbine Borough (small) and a tie between Ocean City and the City of Summit (medium).
2009 Sustainable Jersey Certified Communities Out of 47 certification applications, 34 communities achieved Sustainable Jersey certification in 2009 including Asbury Park City, Belmar, Berkeley Heights, Bernards, Bloomfield, Chatham Township, East Brunswick, Edison, Galloway, Hillsborough, Kearny, Lawrence, Leonia, Livingston, Manalapan, Manchester, Maplewood, Montclair, Montgomery, Morristown, Mt. Olive, Ocean City, Oceanport, Parsippany-Troy Hills, River Edge, Rutherford, Saddle River, South Orange, Village, Summit City, Union, Woodbine, Woodbridge, Cherry Hill and North Brunswick.
Lawrence Township (Mercer) Mayor and Vice-Chair of the Mayors Committee for a Green Future Pam Mount (right) presents Sustainability Champion Awards to (L to R) Sal Perillo, Mayor of Ocean City and Jordan Glatt, Mayor of Summit at the Sustainable Jersey Luncheon at the League Conference in Atlantic City. The towns of Woodbridge and Woodbine (not pictured) also received this award.
2009 Sustainable Jersey Leadership, Innovation and Collaboration Awards The four winners of the first-ever SustainableJersey municipal awards for leadership, innovation and collaboration were announced at the luncheon. Maplewood Township won the Leadership Award in recognition for its exemplary list of environmental initiatives as well as the tireless dedication of Fred Profeta, Jr., who serves as Maplewood’s Deputy Mayor for the Environment and the Chair of the NJLM’s Mayors Committee for a Green Future. Cherry Hill won the Innovation Award for pioneering a new recycling program with RecycleBank whereby everyone in town has their recycling weighed and tracked. For every pound of waste residents recycle, they are rewarded with points that can be used to shop at local and national businesses. Chatham Township and Chatham Borough won the Collaboration Award. Working together, they successfully implemented numerous sustainability initiatives including a joint green fair, an anti-idling campaign, and a farmers market. These efforts are a model of the cooperative spirit that must be used to address the challenges of the future.
The Sustainable Jersey Partnership Many people have been asking who is behind the program, guessing it is a state agency, a non-profit, a private organization or a university. The answer is yes, all of the above. Sustainable Jersey is a partnership that has evolved and been built on the contributions and talents of many.
The Mayors Committee for a Green Future, a committee of the NJLM, serves as the advisory board that tests and gives frank advice on what works and what will not at the local level. This group also serves as head cheerleader by promoting the program to mayors, community groups and Green Teams that need an extra push to register or make progress.
The New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University and the Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey develop the substance of the program and oversee its ongoing operation.
State agencies like the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Bureau of Public Utilities give insight into how the program’s actions work within the state programs, funding options and regulations.
Sustainable Jersey is underwritten by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and sponsored by PSEG, New Jersey Natural Gas, Church & Dwight, Covanta Energy, Nautilus Solar, CDS Xerox and others.
Funding Available to New Jersey Towns for Sustainable Projects A key feature of the Sustainable Jersey program is that it works hard to find funding opportunities for municipalities. By registering with the program, towns get priority access to many New Jersey grant programs and are eligible for the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program funded by WalMart. In 2009, 14 New Jersey municipalities won Sustainable Jersey grants funded by WalMart. 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. And we have good news! In 2010 WalMart will again fund the grants.
What’s New for Sustainable Jersey in 2010? Sustainable Jersey is moving full speed ahead with many improvements incorporated into the 2010 program. Over 50 new actions were added to the list of items that municipalities can choose from in order to achieve certification points. New action sections were added including Animals in the Community, and Food.
The new points and priority actions will give towns more flexibility in completing their applications. The program has added a second tier for which towns can strive. There is now a bronze and a silver level of certification. Bronze requires 150 points and silver level requires 350 points. Point caps have been removed from individual action areas but communities will need to spread their points among category areas and need points in six out of 16 areas for bronze and eight out of 16 areas for silver certification.
Many municipalities are anxiously awaiting the Sustainable Jersey web grant portal that will be launched in 2010. Registered towns will be able to type in some basic information to be linked to a list of competitive, non-competitive and private grants that they can use to pursue sustainable projects. This is extremely valuable. Currently, many towns find it hard to sift through all of the different agencies web sites and program specifications to apply for funding.
To learn more about the Sustainable Jersey certification visit www.sustainablejersey.com.
The article above was originally published in the January 2010 issue of New Jersey Municipalities Magazine