Why the Sustainability Movement is Not Dead

November 20, 2013

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Champions and partnerships emerge in New Jersey.

Tree Planting in Bordentown

Some say the eco-movement is faltering just when we need it the most. Or, that due to the economy, sustainability issues are losing traction with legislators and the public.

In New Jersey, we are seeing a different trend. Municipalities are taking action and working on solutions to our most pressing sustainability challenges.  Sustainable Jersey is at the center of this movement and we think it’s due in large part to our coordinated effort to forge innovative partnerships with associations, businesses and state and federal agencies, while collaborating with multiple partners and stakeholders.

Sustainable Jersey is a good example of the power of collective social impact; our program provides the operating system with many partners helping to make the operations possible.  Sustainability issues require a coordinated effort, and that’s why we’re making progress.

More Towns Apply and Achieve Sustainability Certification

In 2013 we saw a significant increase in the number of towns applying and achieving certification.  Fifty-nine towns have achieved Sustainable Jersey certification, bringing the total up to 137 municipalities that are certified, with 20 towns achieving the more rigorous silver-level certification.  So rather than sitting on the sidelines, 137 towns enacted programs, conducted outreach and did a lot of work voluntarily to improve the sustainability of their communities.


Sustainability Champions: Woodbridge, Madison, Bordentown

Yesterday we had our 5th Annual Sustainable Jersey Awards Luncheon.  Over 350 people attended to recognize the newly certified towns and special award winners.  The “Sustainability Champion” awards are given to the municipalities that achieve the most certification points in three population sizes – small, medium and large.

For the fifth year in a row, Woodbridge Township did an incredible amount of sustainability actions from the certification program, leading all of the towns in New Jersey with 870 certification points.  Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said, “Sustainable Jersey serves as a benchmark for our sustainable initiatives, while providing the Township with additional resources needed to plan for our green future.  As a result, Woodbridge has implemented many sustainable initiatives and programs that serve to better manage the ways we use energy and other natural resources at work and home.  The Sustainable Jersey program is an important vehicle by which our Township will continue to move into the future as a sustainable and environmentally-conscious community.”  He added, “In the quest for our fifth Sustainable Jersey Champion Award, Woodbridge Township, through the Greenable Woodbridge program, continued to implement new and innovative sustainable initiatives, including a $7 million project to install energy-producing solar panels on municipal buildings; automated trash collection and single-stream recycling that dramatically increased recycling and decreased the amount of waste going to the county landfill; implemening energy-saving audits at municipal buildings and facilities; integrating fuel efficient hybrid vehicles into the municipal fleet, and having Woodbridge designated as a Mayors Wellness community, among many other initiatives.”

The City of Bordentown accepted the Sustainability Champion award in the small population category and Madison Township was awarded the Sustainability Champion award in the medium population category. Joseph Malone, the Mayor of the City of Bordentown added, “Winning the Sustainability Champion award makes me proud because this is a town-wide effort, involving the residents, the Council, and the employees.  The City of Bordentown is a community of deep history, a vibrant business district and most importantly, outstanding and dedicated citizens.  We have expanded our awareness in many areas, but one of major significance is the environment.”  Robert Conway, the Mayor of Madison Township, said “Madison is a great place to live now; we have taken the Sustainable Jersey program seriously because we intend to be a great place to live in the years ahead too.”

Galloway Township Shows Leadership

Galloway Township was awarded the Sustainable Jersey Leadership Award.  The town has been an early adopter in the Sustainable Jersey program, demonstrating commitment and leadership by developing innovative waste reduction programs, fostering collaboration with local organizations and neighboring towns, and providing inspiration, mentoring, support and leadership to advance sustainability.

Hamilton Arts Center Entrance

City of Rahway- A Sustainable Community Inspired by the Arts, Culture and Economic Development

The City of Rahway was awarded the Sustainable Jersey Creativity and Innovation Award.  Last January, in partnership with Creative New Jersey, the City of Rahway convened a diverse group of 75 community members at a two day event to explore opportunities to create a thriving community and the results have been impressive.

Samson Steinman, the Mayor of the City of Rahway said, “Rahway has laid the groundwork to create a sustainable community inspired by the arts, culture, and economic development. The perfect example of this effort is the Hamilton Stage for the Performing Arts. This extraordinary venue was recognized in “retrofit magazine” as a deteriorated industrial building that was redesigned and renovated into a state of the art performance space. As Mayor, I recognize the importance of this type of development; and we are committed to incorporating creativity and the arts into our sustainability efforts.”  Rahway also worked with the County to convert a County Bridge to a footbridge and walking path, which encourages people to walk into the downtown, bolstering the economy of the city.

South Orange

Collaboration by Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange Village

The winners of the 2013 Sustainable Jersey Collaboration Award were Maplewood, Millburn and South Orange Village in Essex County.  The Green Team leadership decided to meet monthly and the collaboration resulted in all three towns being recertified with increased community participation and support for environmental initiatives through successful events like the 3-Town Rahway River Clean Up, an Environmental Movie Series, a Green Day Fair and Water Conservation Drip-Irrigation demonstration events.  Events and educational campaigns are now coordinated across three towns which has saved resources, increased political green power and assured greater awareness and impact of the issues.

Sustainable Jersey Partnerships are the Secret to Success

Sustainable Jersey is thankful for the vision, the knowledge and the experience of our communities and partners that are working to help ensure a sustainable future. Here are insights on Sustainable Jersey from some of our partners:

  • Sustainable Jersey has fundamentally reframed the dialogue on sustainability, conservation and livable communities in the Garden State.  As fish and wildlife thrive from rural to urban areas in New Jersey, the tools in Sustainable Jersey offer a tremendously powerful platform for towns and schools to be game changers.  By embracing natural areas and wildlife, towns and schools also greatly increase their quality of life, property values and drinking water.  Millions of New Jersey residents engage in fishing, wildlife watching, backyard bird-feeding and hunting, generating nearly $4 billion in economic revenue.  Fish, wildlife and natural areas are also key indicators for human health from clean water, fresh air and exercise.  As seen through the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, communities can also play a tremendous role in increasing resiliency to intense storms and sea level rise through actions benefitting wildlife and natural areas.  NJ Audubon, working with National Wildlife Federation, applauds Sustainable Jersey for its ground-breaking and innovative work! – Eric Stiles, President & CEO, New Jersey Audubon Society
  • Sustainable Jersey is a national model, not just in theory, but in practice. Sustainable Jersey is leading a sustainable movement that includes municipal officials, community leaders, business leaders and a very diverse set of nonprofit partners, including the National Wildlife Federation and our state affiliate, New Jersey Audubon.  We are proud partners in helping Sustainable Jersey bring people, government officials and partners together for common purpose – to make New Jersey and our world more sustainable.  Over the last few years, municipalities across New Jersey, big and small, Democratic and Republican controlled, urban, rural and suburban towns, now 137 strong have made a real difference with new recycling, clean water, energy efficiency and many other programs that have improved the quality of life of their residents and the state as a whole. Clearly, these communities deserve our support and recognition, but what makes Sustainable Jersey extra special is the leadership of Donna Drewes and Randy Solomon who are national experts on the “how to” of municipal and now school sustainability. – Curtis Fisher, National Wildlife Federation
  • ANJEC is gratified to see the important work of so many environmental commissions supported through the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants. This money will go a long way in helping them protect natural resources in their communities.  – Julie Groth, Resource Center Director, Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC)

  • Sustainable Jersey has a clear vision, and an impressively wide reach as it connects with leaders of nearly all of New Jersey’s municipalities.  Its dedicated staff and its thoughtful approach are a true asset for New Jersey.  Sustainable Jersey helps New Jersey succeed by taking sustainability seriously and trying to come to terms with the gap between what the planet can support and the overly risky resource dependence of our current economies.  – Mathis Wackernagel, Ph.D., President, Global Footprint Network
  • New Jersey Future seeks to advance smart growth policies and practices across the state.  The Sustainable Jersey program is a great vehicle for introducing innovative ideas to town leaders and providing tools and incentives for implementing those ideas.  -Peter Kasabach, Executive Director, New Jersey Future

  • GreenFaith appreciates the way in which Sustainable Jersey brings communities together to address environmental issues in concrete ways, and mobilizes substantial resources on behalf of sustainability. – The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith
  • USGBC NJ is proud to have been a task force member and staunch supporter of Sustainable Jersey since its inception.  We look forward to our continued mutual collaboration on significant state wide issues such as NJ Green Schools and Municipal Certification programs.  – Florence Block, Executive Director, U.S. Green Building Council – NJ

  • Sustainable Jersey provides an important evolutionary platform to promote sustainability in municipalities.  Through our Blue Star initiative, Clean Ocean Action is collaborating with Sustainable Jersey’s certification program to encourage coastal communities to focus on a bluer future using the water quality improvement actions. – Cindy Zipf, Executive Director, Clean Ocean Action (COA)
  • Sustainable Jersey is an important way to drive environmental improvements at the local level.  The addition of actions and standards this year to reflect the diversity of New Jersey’s communities is an important step. Specifically, NY/NJ Baykeeper was pleased with the collaborative process of working on the new Brownfields actions and standards. -Debbie Mans, Executive Director, NY/NJ Baykeeper
  • Sustainable Jersey is leading the way in helping municipalities learn and apply best practices in sustainability.  The urgency could not be greater, and Sustainable Jersey continues to step up to the enormous challenges we are all facing: providing leadership, standards, performance metrics, guidance, resources, and appropriate levels of certification and recognition for those who are just starting on the journey, as well as to those who are more advanced.  The Institute for Sustainable Enterprise at FDU, and Transitioning to Green are proud to be affiliated and collaborate with Sustainable Jersey now and into the future. – Jeana Wirtenberg, Ph.D., Co-Founder and Senior Advisor, Institute for Sustainable Enterprise, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and President & CEO, Transitioning to Green, LLC

  • Municipalities who achieve Sustainable Jersey certification are making real strides towards protecting the environment, public health and safety.  The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is a proud partner in Sustainable Jersey and is honored to have helped to create certification actions, such as a water conservation ordinance, for municipalities to protect the environment and water resources.  Implementing thoughtful and informed actions to adjust how we live on and use land to ensure that we have enough clean water for everyone is a critical step in becoming a sustainable society. – Jennifer M. Coffey, Policy Director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association

  • Sustainable Jersey has given New Jerseyans a unique opportunity to constructively engage in local initiatives that build stronger more resilient communities.  Our partnership has been incredibly rewarding, having The Citizens Campaign coaches mentor Sustainable Jersey leaders to effectively navigate NJ’s political channels and get real results in their communities.  Working together we are building a community of empowered citizens who are ensuring sustainable futures.  Lauren Skowronski, State Campaign Director, Citizens Campaign
  • As a non-profit transportation management association, we at TransOptions have had the opportunity to work with Sustainable Jersey on key mobility and accessibility issues.  Through our collaborative efforts with local municipalities and the Sustainable Jersey Land Use and Transportation Task Force, we have seen first-hand both the dedication of those working on the program and the benefits that all Sustainable Jersey actions have on our communities. — John F. Ciaffone, President, TransOptions, Inc.
  • Together North Jersey’s association with Sustainable Jersey and its Green Teams has provided a window of insight into the sustainability issues and challenges most important to residents and local leaders throughout the Together North Jersey planning region.  The Sustainable Jersey program is a great example of engagement, collaboration and action to advance sustainability planning at the local level.  Without the participation and support of engaged citizens, like those involved in Green Teams throughout the region, initiatives, like Together North Jersey, could not succeed.  – Miriam Salerno, Voorhees Transportation Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

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Images courtesy Sustainable Jersey

Sustainable Jersey staff and partners are regular contributors to the Dodge blog