Sustainable Jersey: What are the Biggest Sustainability Challenges Facing NJ?

May 18, 2016

New gold standards to be unveiled at the 2016 New Jersey Sustainability Summit



Sustainable Jersey will break new ground at the 2016 New Jersey Sustainability Summit with the much anticipated release of the first elements of the gold standard for sustainability certification in the foundational dimensions of energy and waste.

Defining a gold standard for municipalities in terms of measured outcomes rather than prescriptive actions represents a bold step that no other state-level program has taken. We anticipate it will lead to a lively discussion at the 2016 Sustainability Summit on June 15 and in communities across New Jersey that are serious about measuring progress toward sustainability goals.

Sustainable Jersey’s First Gold Star Standards

In our quest to secure a sustainable future we need to be able to say how much progress is being made; the Gold Star Standards set a course to do just that. For example, to determine the standard in the energy dimension, the primary goal is to have municipalities meet a target rate of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction per capita from a baseline year.  In other words, we are asking towns to do their part of what is needed to act in time to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.  Reduction “in time” to avert the worst effects of climate change is taken to mean that it must occur at a rate pinned to the 2007 New Jersey Global Warming Response Act (GWRA). The GWRA mandates the entire state to decrease GHG emissions by 80 percent from 2006 levels by the year 2050.

Like the Energy Gold Star Standard, the Waste Gold Star Standard will require municipalities to meet a target reduction rate, in this case for the total amount of municipal solid waste generated per capita, along with other requirements, such as increasing the recycling rate.  Sustainable Jersey will roll out the Gold Star Standards for Energy and Waste at the Sustainability Summit and will then move forward to define gold for other areas in 2017.

The Energy and Waste Gold Star Standards will be the focus of two of the fifteen breakout sessions at the 2016 New Jersey Sustainability Summit. These two sessions will give community members and municipal staff the information they need to start making measurable change in energy and waste–arenas that are fundamental to a sustainable future. Attendees will also position their towns to be ready to apply for the first Sustainable Jersey Gold Stars in 2017.

  • Breakout Session: Achieving the Gold Standard in Energy: Speakers will include: Gary Fournier, Sustainable Jersey Energy Director, Tony O’Donnell, Sustainable Jersey Economist, Nancy Quirk, Sustainable Jersey Program Coordinator for Advanced Infrastructure, Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey Co-Director, Ashley Miller, TRC Solutions Associate Project Manager and Dennis Henry, the Director of Public Works for Woodbridge Township.
  • Breakout Session: Achieving the Gold Standard in Waste: Speakers will include: Gary Sondermeyer, Vice President of Operations for Bayshore Recycling, Melanie McDermott, Sustainable Jersey Senior Researcher and Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey Co-Director.

To support the Sustainability Summit discussions, the 2015 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report, which was released at the first Sustainability Summit, will be updated to reflect changes in sustainability trends over the past year. The report provides an important vision and baseline for New Jersey with 57 distinct goals. The yearly updates will frame a report card on our progress in New Jersey.

2016 New Jersey Sustainability Summit

If you have not registered yet, there are just 28 days until the New Jersey Sustainability Summit on June 15. The one-day event brings together over three-hundred thought leaders and community members for sessions that range from the philosophical, such as citizen engagement, to nuts and bolts of best practices in communities.

With 15 concurrent sustainability sessions, participants learn, listen and discuss issues ranging from energy, waste, economic development and education to the arts and creative culture. The Sustainability Summit includes more than 50 experts and practitioners and a keynote address by Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central. Summit breakout sessions include:

  • Achieving the Gold Standard in Waste
  • Build Your Green Team’s Brand
  • Creating Vibrant and Thriving Communities
  • Innovations in Sustainability Education
  • Municipal Role in Water Quality
  • Achieving the Gold Standard in Energy
  • Facilitating Business Engagement in Community Sustainability Initiatives
  • Municipal and School Collaborations for Sustainability
  • Planning for Sustainable Communities
  • Tools for Effective Communication and Civic Engagement
  • Health, Equity and Environmental Justice
  • Moving as a Society Toward Zero Waste
  • Next Generation Sustainable Energy – Emerging Technologies and Practices in Sustainable Energy
  • Resilient Inland and Coastal Communities: Actions to Take Today!
  • Regional Hubs Can Make You Stronger!



Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey

Randy Solomon is a co-director of Sustainable Jersey and a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog. Sustainable Jersey is a nonprofit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs. By supporting community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve environmental equity, Sustainable Jersey is empowering communities to build a better world for future generations.