Five years ago, I traveled to Atlantic City for the inaugural Sustainable Jersey Awards Luncheon. We honored the first 34 towns and special award winners that achieved certification and excelled in the Sustainable Jersey program. These municipalities were forward-thinking, high achievers that understood the benefits that sustainable initiatives would bring.
In a blink of an eye, fast forward five years to today and I am making the trip again. With a sold-out crowd of 400 people, and 81 towns achieving certification in this cycle, the excitement and momentum for Sustainable Jersey continues to grow and inspire us.
This year we have the largest number of communities ever certified in a single program year. The certified communities represent 30 percent of the state’s municipalities. Camden County joined Mercer County in having all of their municipal governments registered, growing our program to 417 participating communities that represent nearly 75 percent of the state’s municipalities.
Big and small, rural and urban, each community has a different story or approach for how they organize themselves to complete the certification. Some towns are lucky to have a stand-out leader, or a mayor and local government that support and push through sustainability initiates, or a community of volunteers that work hand and hand with their local government to get certified.
Real progress and change is happening community by community as municipalities voluntarily choose to work through the Sustainable Jersey certification program. As we reach the 565 municipalities in New Jersey, these towns provide direct access to inspire and educate residents, businesses — everyday people that need to hear the message.
Of the 81 towns certified or re-certified in this cycle, three Sustainability Champions were chosen. These awards recognize municipalities that have scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in three population categories.
The 2014 Sustainability Champion award recipients are:
- SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION (SMALL CATEGORY)with 545 points: Cape May City(Cape May County)
- SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION (MEDIUM CATEGORY) with 475 points: Summit(Union County)
- SUSTAINABILITY CHAMPION (LARGE CATEGORY) with 410 points: Cherry Hill(Camden County)
Cape May City: The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort
This year, Cape May City scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in the small population category, and has the most points overall with 545 points for this certification cycle.
Cape May previously earned this same distinction in 2011 and 2012. Home to about 3,600 people, Cape May is a city at the southern tip of Cape May Peninsula, where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. With Victorian mansions and a famous lighthouse, Cape May is one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations.
Led by a mayor that fully embraces Sustainable Jersey, and is even a member of the Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees, Mayor Mahaney works hard to integrate their long-range planning agenda with long-term financial and capital planning programs to create the overall sustainability plan. “The Sustainable Jersey program has provided the City of Cape May with the opportunity, technical assistance, and resources to plan, develop, and implement a long-range, comprehensive, and integrated program to ensure the sustainability, affordability, and resiliency of ‘The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort,’” said Dr. Edward J. Mahaney, Jr. the Mayor of Cape May City.
City of Summit: Four-Time Sustainability Champion
Moving north and inland from Cape May, the City of Summit is located in Union County. Summit scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in the medium population category with 475 points for this certification cycle. A four time Sustainability Champion, Summit previously earned this distinction in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The City of Summit is home to more than 21,000 residents who speak over 35 languages, representing an economically and culturally diverse community. With direct rail access to Manhattan, Summit is in the top 20-highest per capita income brackets in the state and has long been popular with traders, investment bankers, and money managers, with nearly 20 percent of Summit’s residents working in finance and real estate.
In order to be successful, Summit has focused on community involvement and collaboration. They work hard to create positive and lasting environmental change by prioritizing programs and initiatives that positively impact the environment. The city has put continued emphasis on the importance of local purchases for the economic and environmental health of community.
From community gardens to book barns to hiking trails, Summit is working on it! Ellen Dickson, the Mayor of Summit said, “It is wonderful to be in a City where we are working together to create a sustainable future. Being awarded Sustainable Jersey Champion status for the fourth time and a silver-level certification for the third time is recognition of our outstanding work toward this important goal. We are thankful to Sustainable Jersey for its support and recognition, and this award.”
Cherry Hill: South Jersey’s Economic Center
Located in Camden County, Cherry Hill has a population of 71,000, making the township one of the state’s 15 most-populous municipalities. Cherry Hill scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in the large population category with 410 points for this certification cycle.
“Cherry Hill Township is proud to be named a Sustainable Champion for 2014. Over the last several years, our entire community – our residents, businesses, community groups, and government – have come together and truly embraced the concept of sustainability, and this is the wonderful culmination of those efforts,” said Chuck Cahn the Mayor of Cherry Hill.
“From Cherry Hill’s robust recycling and e-waste program, to our Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, to our support of local businesses, “sustainability” is about so much more than just recycling. We are building a healthier, more vibrant community, in all senses of the word, and we work hard to incorporate the principles of sustainability into everything that we do. Cherry Hill is a wonderful place to live and raise a family, and we want it to stay that way for generations to come,” Mayor Cahn added.
Learn More about Each Town’s Sustainability Initiatives
You can review the different programs and initiatives that each of these towns did by looking at the Sustainable Jersey Participating Communities Map. Find the green pin for Cherry Hill, Summit and/or Cape May. Click on the town’s green pin to see a full certified report listing of the sustainability actions each town completed.
This has been a stand-out year for Sustainable Jersey. New Jersey communities are showing no signs of slowing in their commitment to sustainability. There is no going backwards.
Connect with Sustainable Jersey on its Website and Facebook page. Randall Solomon is one of the principals that founded and now co-directs Sustainable Jersey. He is a regular contributor to the Dodge Blog.