Got A Big Idea That Needs Funding?

Posted on by Donna Drewes, Sustainable Jersey

Grants are now available.

You’ve got a project with potential, but how do you raise money for it?  Whether you’re looking to start a new project or develop an existing one, you’ll almost certainly need money to make it happen.

Sustainable Jersey has set up a competitive grant process to fund sustainability projects in New Jersey.  The grant program is quickly making New Jersey a hotbed of innovative initiatives–119 grants in 20 New Jersey counties have been distributed since the program began in 2009.  Sustainable Jersey grants are awarded to projects that cover the spectrum of our sustainability actions, so think arts, diversity and equity, and health and wellness in addition to the more commonly thought of environmental categories.

Through the 2013 Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program, $380,000 in grant money is now available to New Jersey municipalities. Funded by Walmart, this cycle of the program will support seventy local projects that leverage resources to make communities more livable, environmentally friendly and prosperous.

The Sustainable Jersey program has established itself as the nexus of local communities, funders and agencies.  Numerous public and private funders like Walmart, have linked their funding programs to Sustainable Jersey.  The program has leveraged over $200,000,000 to incentivize and support local implementation.  With this contribution, Walmart will exceed the $1,000,000 mark, having provided funding for the grant program each year since 2009.

This first cycle of the 2013 Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program will award local governments with one $50,000 grant, four $20,000 grants, fifteen $10,000 grants for projects and fifty $2,000 capacity building grants. Applications are due on August 4, 2013. Proposals will be reviewed and scored by an independent selection committee.  Sustainable Jersey anticipates a second cycle of the Small Grants program in late September 2013.  The application package for the second 2013 funding cycle of the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program funded by the PSEG Foundation will be released on September 30, 2013.

Projects funded in past years include electric vehicle charging stations, an organic curbside waste program, wind turbines, an energy efficiency education program for low-income residents, school food composting centers and community gardens. Here are three examples of past grant projects:

Edible Gardens in Highland Park School District
In 2009, Highland Park created three Edible Gardens after winning a $10,000 Sustainable Jersey Small Grant funded by Walmart.  The school-based gardens incorporated green job training, local and global food issues, accessible garden beds and composting and nutritional education into the classrooms.  The school cafeterias serve the produce grown in the gardens as part of school lunches, donate it to Elijah’s Promise and distribute it at a “free mini-farm market” to patrons of the Highland Park food pantry.

Hundreds of students are involved with the gardens in one way or another through classroom experiments, activities or after school groups.  The project successfully encourages the participation of students from all age groups, who care for the garden, spend their time there reading or making artwork, and raise awareness of health, food, and energy issues throughout the community.

What is the impact?  Well, the schools and community at large are reducing their carbon footprint, providing a greater availability of unprocessed and nutritious foods and strengthening community ties through building and harvesting the garden.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Montclair Township
In 2010, Montclair Township was awarded a $25,000 Sustainable Jersey Small Grant funded by Walmart.  Montclair installed four charging stations for electric vehicles – one pair in the downtown business district, and one pair uptown – as part of their move away from petroleum, and towards alternative, clean energy.  Montclair was the first New Jersey town to install public charging stations, accommodating the growing use of electric vehicles.

The networked stations recharge battery-powered cars, including pluggable hybrids, and are available both to the public and to the municipal fleet.  One of the most significant steps in encouraging electric vehicle usage is establishing a charging infrastructure, and the Sustainable Jersey grant made this possible for Montclair.

“Drivers concerned about a low charge level in their car – perhaps headed home after work – can now be confident about coming to Montclair for a meeting or a dinner date,” said Environmental Coordinator Gray Russell.  “They can simply pull into one of our shopping area parking lots, plug their electric car into the charge point, and go to their meeting, dinner or movie (or all three).  Coming back, they’ll find their car charged up – and their “Smart Card” account automatically debited for the electricity use – without even having to fumble for change.”

Super Composter in the School District of the Chathams
Thanks to $25,000 in grant money from the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants program funded by Walmart, the Chatham Township Environmental Commission purchased a Rocket Composter for the Chatham School District, making it the first school in New Jersey to use the system.

The Rocket Composter was installed at the high school and now, food waste from three of the district’s six schools is being turned into rich, organic compost for use on school gardens. The composter—which produces compost from food waste in just 14 days—eliminates the costs of paying a vendor to haul away the food waste for composing offsite and paying to have the final product brought back as fertilizer.

In 2011, 3,478 pounds of food waste became compost.  Children are involved and it has saved the school district money because it now uses the homegrown compost on the grounds and avoids having to purchase it.

Chatham High School Principal Darren Groh described the Rocket as a “nice addition to the School District of the Chathams and a constant reminder to the students and staff about the importance of recycling.”

Visit the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program page for more information on the grants that are now available.

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