Taking Small Steps to Tackle Big Problems

Posted on by Randall Solomon, Sustainable Jersey

2012 Grant Winners

Sometimes Sustainable Jersey’s work can seem daunting.  The challenges are immense–extreme weather, economic change, crumbling infrastructure, workforce education, climate change, energy efficiency, waste, water resources and biodiversity.  But the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program serves as a bridge for these large problems.  The innovative programs and creative leadership we find in New Jersey towns continues to inspire me.

The Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program has empowered over 119 New Jersey communities to implement projects that are important to them and will move their sustainability goals forward.

The Small Grants program has been made possible with generous funding from Walmart and the PSEG Foundation. Walmart provided $595,000 to fund the 2009-2011 Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program.  Sustainable Jersey collaborated with the New Jersey League of Municipalities Educational Foundation to support and administer these grants.  The 2012 program, funded by the PSEG Foundation, provided $200,000 to municipalities in the form of small grants.  The funded projects serve as examples and resources for other New Jersey towns contemplating the same initiatives.

An independent, expert committee selected the grant winners.  The panel included representatives of the Association of NJ Environmental Commissions, NJ Future, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Business Action Center of the Department of State/Office of Planning Advocacy, the Citizens’ Campaign, the Center for Executive Leadership in Government at Rutgers University, PlanSmart NJ, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and the New Jersey Highlands Council.

It will take both types of problem solving, big and small, to tackle our sustainability challenges.  The ripple effect of small grants in New Jersey communities has already made a big impact.  Do you have a green project that needs funding to move it into reality?  Check for updates on the Sustainable Jersey website and Facebook.  The 2013 Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program will be announced soon.

2012 Small Grant projects (partial list) funded by the PSEG Foundation

$20,000 Grant: Organic Curbside Waste Program, Princeton, Mercer County
The grant will expand the Organic Curbside Waste program.  The curbside program provides participating households with rolling waste bins that are picked up weekly.  Residents use compostable or biodegradable trash bags and fill the bins with food and organic waste, including everything from fish bones to pizza boxes, kitchen trimmings and plate waste. The waste is trucked to a compost facility which turns it into nutrient-rich soil.  There are a number of benefits to the Curbside Food to Compost program. Not only does it save money for the town due to increased recycle rates and lower trash dumping fees, but it turns waste into a usable product.

“We are thrilled to accept this grant to assist Princeton in expanding its Curbside Food to Compost program. We believe the program is a model that can be replicated by towns across New Jersey.   Not only does curbside compost make financial sense for a community but it keeps organic waste out of New Jersey’s overburdened landfills and turns it into nutrient rich soil.” -Matthew Wasserman, Board Chair of Sustainable Princeton

$20,000 Grant: Green Infrastructure Demonstration Project, Hoboken, Hudson County
With the grant, the City of Hoboken will work in collaboration with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s (RCE) Water Resources Program to identify and prioritize opportune locations for stormwater curb extensions. The City of Hoboken will install two demonstration curb extensions.  Stormwater curb extensions on commercial streets are similar to those on residential streets. They are rain gardens typically located near the corners that can also provide the pedestrian with a more comfortable crossing. This demonstration project will help inform and evaluate the potential for green infrastructure solutions to urban stormwater runoff challenges and the results will be shared with other urbanized communities throughout the region.

$20,000 Grant: Innovative Bioswale, Island Heights, Ocean County
With the grant, Island Heights hopes to transform public parking lot medians adjacent to the Barnegat Bay Estuary, an estuary of national significance, into an innovative bio-swale that incorporates native plantings, public information, and local art, while helping to absorb and treat stormwater runoff and address non-point source pollution. This completed project will be a beautiful, functional, and adoptable example of a green technology for homeowners, borough officials, neighboring towns and county representatives.

$20,000 Grant: Middle Township Water Conservation Project, Middle Township, Cape May County
Middle Township will use the grant to do a water conservation educational program.  The Township is committed to preserving the highest quality water and reducing the export of freshwater out of basins in support of meeting water supply needs and natural resource protection. Reclaimed Water for Beneficial Reuse involves taking what was once considered a waste product, giving it a specialized level of treatment and using the resulting high-quality reclaimed water for beneficial uses.

$10,000 Grant: Stormwater Management Solutions, Hightstown, Mercer County
Hightstown is implementing a Stormwater Run-off Ordinance that will be one of the most progressive Stormwater Run-off Ordinances in New Jersey.  As a way to encourage support for the ordinance and to educate the public on how to minimize stormwater run-off, Hightstown will use the grant funds to construct and implement three unique solutions for stormwater management on an existing affordable housing property.  To minimize stormwater run-off, the project includes the installation of rain barrels, a rain garden and dry-wells where rain gardens are not feasible.  Each solution will be accompanied by an educational element.

$10,000 Grant: Sustainable Landscaping Certification and Mini-Grant Program, Galloway Township, Atlantic County
The Galloway Green Team wants to educate property owners in the Township who do not understand how their quest for a green lawn hurts themselves and others.  The use of chemicals and exotic plants are harmful to the homeowners and business owners.  These practices also have ramifications for the Township as a whole: polluting the ground water systems, air, and depriving native wildlife of valuable habitat. The grant will be used to take the awareness campaign to educate property owners about the value of sustainable landscaping to the next level.  The Green Team will provide incentives to those who wish to convert all or part of their yards to native species plants and reduce their lawn size. These incentives will also include building native rain gardens to remediate runoff on their properties.

$10,000 Grant: “Growing” Our Green Team Projects, Gloucester Township, Camden County
The grant funds will be used to facilitate a raingarden installation on the grounds of the municipal building. The location of the raingarden will help address an existing drainage issue and prevent major erosion problems in the future. The funds will also be used to support the Farmers’ Market, expand the Green Team, improve the Green Fair and purchase several items to enhance the Community Garden.

$10,000 Grant: Open Space and Recreation Plan, Maurice River Township, Cumberland County
The grant funds will be used to do a comprehensive Open Space and Recreation Plan. The Township has various natural resources and open spaces. To allow these natural resources to better serve the Township’s residents, the plan will assess the needs for identified and future recreation and open space.

$10,000 Grant: Community Gardens,
Mt. Olive Township, Morris County
Mount Olive, working with The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, will use the grant to build an 80-plot community garden.  The goal of the garden is not only to provide a place for residents to grow vegetables, but for it to become a “community gathering point,” said Barbara Heskins-Davis of the Land Conservancy.  “We hope to offer educational programming and community events and really make it a place to meet your neighbors,” she said.  With the growing demand for food supplies from the local food bank and growing low income population, the township sees the project as an opportunity to let residents grow fresh fruit and vegetables to supplement their diet, as well as save them money.

$10,000 Grant: Wildlife Interaction Plan, Park Ridge, Bergen County
The Borough of Park Ridge is planning to create a Wildlife Interaction Plan for the Electric Lake area and Pascack Brook which extends through the center of the borough. In the past ten years, there have been numerous projects to improve the infrastructure of the Lake and Brook, including the rebuilding of the Hydro Dam, creating a Historic Museum at the Hydro Electric building, and installing a new Footbridge over the Pascack Brook. These projects have enhanced the Infrastructure of Electric Lake, the historic value of Park Ridge and have created improved accessibility in the area for the community; however they have not focused on integrating a Wildlife Interaction Plan to sustain the environment for wildlife.  The grant will now provide the plan.

$10,000 Grant: Conservation Easement Program, West Amwell, Hunterdon County
West Amwell Township has prepared an initial inventory of the existing conservation easements.  The town will use the grant to establish a stewardship program to protect the valuable resources and educate landowners as to their care and importance to the Township and region.

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