359 Municipalities Working Toward Sustainable Jersey Certification
April 18th, 2012 by New Jersey Future staff
- New Jersey is the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive sustainability program that supports community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental equity.
- 359 municipalities are registered and working toward Sustainable Jersey certification. This represents more than 60 percent of the state’s 566 municipalities. Notably, nearly 75 percent of New Jersey’s population lives in registered/certified Sustainable Jersey communities.
- 108 municipalities are certified, including 99 towns at the bronze level and nine towns at the silver level: Berkeley Heights, Bernards, Cape May, Cherry Hill, Galloway, Jersey City, Summit, West Windsor and Woodbridge.
Voluntary Program Offers Guidance for ‘Green Legacy’ Actions
Sustainable Jersey is a voluntary program for municipalities in New Jersey that supports community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve environmental equity. It provides state and private financial incentives and a full range of technical support, training and tools to empower communities to create a positive legacy for future generations.
To achieve certification, municipalities must complete a certain number of voluntary actions, choosing from more than 60 actions within 16 categories. Actions can range from devising strategies to make farmers’ markets more accessible to enacting a Complete Streets policy to conducting an energy audit of municipal facilities.
The technical content of the program’s actions was developed with the help of 22 task forces comprising state and local officials, nonprofit groups, experts and members of the business community. Recognizing that the power to plan and zone for development is largely in the hands of municipalities, Sustainable Jersey provides resources, including guidance, tools and sample resolutions, to help encourage sound land-use decision-making. New Jersey Future helped draft and refine several of the actions within the Land Use and Transportation section.
The Sustainable Jersey certification program was launched in February 2009 as a collaborative effort among the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future, Rutgers University and the Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey, in partnership with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. In 2011, Sustainable Jersey evolved from a partnership into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Most New Jerseyans Want Sustainable Communities
According to a 2011 Monmouth University poll, New Jersey residents think preservation of critical resources like drinking water is just as important as economic growth. They would also like to see more communities where a variety of transportation options besides cars is available and neighborhoods are within walking distance of shopping and other services – in other words, they’re interested in building sustainable communities. Two-thirds of New Jersey residents feel the state needs more of these communities and nearly three in four residents say they would definitely (46 percent) or probably (27 percent) want to live in such a community. A majority believe such communities will make it easier to get around (72 percent) and will promote economic growth (71 percent).
With this clear support in mind, a community that’s interested in participating in the Sustainable Jersey program can take the first step by forming a Green Team. Members of the Green Team leverage their skills and expertise to help develop plans, implement programs and assist with educational opportunities that support the creation of a sustainable community. Such entities can go by any name, but the role is the same: lead and coordinate the sustainability activities of the community. Sustainable Jersey certification requires that the Green Team be established by a resolution or ordinance that is adopted by the municipal governing body.
New Jersey Future will continue to partner on this important initiative, providing technical assistance and guidance on the land-use and transportation actions. As we approach Earth Day, please consider getting involved in your own community by joining a Green Team, or encouraging your municipality to take actions toward increased sustainability. You can learn more at the Sustainable Jersey website.