With over 265 registered New Jersey towns, the Sustainable Jersey scene is bigger than ever.
More than half of New Jersey’s municipalities are working toward achieving Sustainable Jersey certification, following the lead of the first 34 towns that became certified in 2009.
At the local level this means that towns are actively working to improve energy efficiency, develop smart land use and transportation plans, reduce waste, protect natural resources, and address diversity and equity issues. This progress across New Jersey sets us apart from the rest of the country. We are proud to be the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive sustainability program for communities that links certification with strong state and private financial incentives, and a fully resourced program of technical support and training.
Despite considerable progress to date, the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ Mayors Committee for a Green Future (MCGF) and our project partners are showing no signs of slowing down. Expectations are high that many more towns will achieve certification in 2010. With new program features, improved actions, a refined point structure and an active schedule of how-to workshops and trainings—the goal is to fully support and provide resources for municipalities to make progress.
Elected and appointed municipal officials attend a Sustainable Jersey workshop in South Jersey
on May 19 to learn about the 2010 Sustainable Jersey
Save Money, Earn Grants Sustainable Jersey towns and cities implement practices that lead to cost savings in energy, water and garbage bills. Communities work to improve efficiency, cut waste and stimulate their local economies.
In addition to saving towns money, a key feature of the Sustainable Jersey program is that it works hard to find funding opportunities for municipalities. Towns that register with Sustainable Jersey get special priority access and notification of incentives and grants. These towns are also eligible for the Sustainable Jersey Small Grant program funded by Walmart. On May 13, 2010 we announced that $225,000 was available to fund sustainable
projects across New Jersey. As part of a competitive process, municipalities have been submitting applications for sustainable projects and programs that need funding. The winners will be revealed this month after review by an independent Blue Ribbon Selection Committee.
New in 2010, a customized Sustainable Jersey grant portal is being developed that will allow towns to search all of the financial incentives and grants from public and private sources. Users will be able to search by category and keyword, or create a profile that will generate, and automatically update, a list of grants for which they are eligible.
Receive Training, Tools and Expert
Guidance Sustainable Jersey towns have access to clear “how to” guidance and New Jersey specific tools and resources for developing a comprehensive sustainable community program. New in 2010, Sustainable Jersey is providing a full menu of regular workshops, webinars, leadership training sessions and social networking events for municipal staff, elected officials and green teams. Trainings focus on a range of topics from how to implement specific Sustainable Jersey actions to Green Team capacity building. A full schedule of events is available at www.SustainableJersey.com.
To facilitate collaboration and to learn from other towns’ successes and challenges, the MCGF is hosting Sustainable Jersey social gatherings. In May, the MCGF hosted two networking events for Sustainable Jersey communities. A lively group attended both the Morristown and Cherry Hill events to trade stories, learn about new Sustainable Jersey project updates and make connections to pursue their sustainable agendas.
Also new in 2010, revised points and priority actions give towns more flexibility in completing their certification 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.
Cherry Hill Township Council Vice President Sara Lipsett greets guests at the NJLM Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future event for Sustainable Jersey in Cherry Hill on May 13, 2010.
Sustainable Jersey Workshops From January through March, 2010, over 390 people attended the first round of Sustainable Jersey workshops that were held in Bordentown, Cherry Hill, Hunterdon, Flemington, Ocean City and on-line in the form of a Webinar. The community energy outreach workshops shared ways that local municipalities can earn points towards the Sustainable Jersey certification program and obtain cash rebates for encouraging residents to participate in state energy conservation programs.
As municipal budgets tighten, the opportunity to earn up to $4,000 in incentives by enrolling residents in New Jersey’s Clean Energy Programs is something we want to encourage. The incentives provide savings for our residents and businesses, as well as the important environmental benefits for the overall health of our communities. In addition to other energy conservation programs, the workshop provided an overview of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Community Partners’ Initiative that offers towns support in their efforts to set clean energy goals, develop outreach plans, and educate residents about the economic and environmental benefits of clean energy and simple climate change solutions.
Update on New Jersey Energy Funding Changes In March, Governor Chris Christie proposed in his Fiscal Year 2011 budget the move of $65 million from New Jersey’s Global Warming Solutions Fund to the General Fund to help cover the deficit. The money comes from quarterly auctions of allowances of greenhouse gas emissions from large power plants. New Jersey is one of 10 states that formed a cap-and-trade market in the northeast known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that holds the auctions. The auctions’ proceeds are supposed to go toward energy efficiency programs and other efforts to deal with climate change. The Local Government Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grant program, funded by RGGI, is canceled for this first year. These grants will be reinstated in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget.
Significant changes were also made to New Jersey’s Clean Energy Fund and Program; however, overall most changes will not have significant negative impacts on the Sustainable Jersey program and municipalities. The Clean Energy Program offers government customers financial incentives, design support and technical assistance to integrate energy efficient and renewable energy technologies into new construction, upgrades, and new cooling and heating equipment installations. Governor Christie will take the carry forward funds from the Clean Energy Fund for the General Fund. We are happy to report that the programs that assist Sustainable Jersey towns have for the most part been preserved, but in some cases the total amount of funds has been reduced. The Direct Install Pay for Performance funding may not cover all of the applications. We encourage municipalities to take full advantage of these programs and to refer to the program sponsors for more information.
Get recognized. Promote your town. Sustainable Jersey towns are promoted on our website, in our e-newsletters, in the press and at promotional events. Towns that achieve certification are provided a customized Sustainable Jersey logo that can be used on town promotional materials. Municipalities will be honored at the annual Sustainable Jersey luncheon at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference on November 16, 2010. Annual Sustainable Jersey awards are bestowed to the top point getters and those towns that excel in leadership, innovation and collaboration.
Conserve valuable resources. Protect the environment. Residents increasingly want to live in towns that are doing their part for the environment. The Sustainable Jersey actions cover a wide range of topic areas focusing on people, prosperity and the planet. By becoming a Sustainable Jersey certified town, your municipality can align with your community’s values while saving the town’s resources as well as nature’s.
Don’t miss your municipality’s chance to go green, save money and take steps to sustain your quality of life over the long term. Join the Sustainable Jersey green scene.
To learn more about the
Sustainable Jersey certification visit www.sustainablejersey.com.
To learn more about the Mayors Committee for a Green Future visit www.njslom.org/Green_Future_
This article appeared in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 87, Number 6, June 2010