Imagine if you could get a group of experts from academia, the non-profit sector, the business community, and state, local, federal, and county government to meet regularly. This alone would be good feat.
Now imagine that this group develops and vets a set of sustainability actions that are easy to understand for towns and schools to use. Stay with me; now picture towns and schools voluntarily working to complete these sustainability actions, and to top it off, this consensus driven, voluntary sustainability program is in New Jersey.
Utopian green dreaming? No, of course I am referring to the 300 leaders, give or take a few, that volunteer to serve on Sustainable Jersey Task Forces. The success of this process and the dedication of the task force members continue to inspire me.
Sustainable Jersey Task Forces research and disseminate best practices, translate global and state imperatives into local actions, test sustainability planning models and develop community resources for the program. In essence, they have helped to develop the 147 Sustainable Jersey municipal certification actions and the 87 Sustainable Jersey for Schools actions. These actions are what towns, and now schools, do to achieve points toward certification.
New Municipal Sustainable Jersey Actions
The tasks forces meet by area of focus; for example there is an Energy Task Force, an Arts and Creative Culture Task Force, a Waste Management Task Force and others. Each year the task forces review the existing actions and develop new actions, if needed. The municipal Arts and Creative Culture Task Force is now finalizing a new action called “Utilizing Your Community’s Creative Assets” that will develop strategies to build and capitalize upon a community’s creative strengths. The Green Infrastructure Task Force is about to release a Storm Water Ordinance action. Some of the new actions are completed and on the website ready for towns to consider for the 2015 certification cycle.
Here are a few:
Brownfields Marketing Action: The goal of this action, developed by the Brownfields Task Force, is to encourage municipalities to actively market available brownfields sites. A critical first step in towns attracting the expertise and capital needed to clean up New Jersey’s existing brownfields is ensuring that the organizations that might be interested in acquiring brownfields sites are aware of the redevelopment opportunities in the town.
Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Supportive Zoning: The purpose of this action, developed by the Land Use and Transportation Task Force, is to encourage municipalities to establish innovative, TOD supportive zoning. TOD is compact, pedestrian-friendly and incorporates housing, retail and commercial growth within walking distance of public transportation, including commuter rail, light rail, ferry, and bus terminals.
Make Your Town Electric Vehicle (EV) Friendly: The goal of this action, developed by the Energy Task Force, is for a town to complete a set of tasks which together influence the use of EVs by the community. The more electrically fueled miles driven in NJ, the less in-state petroleum consumption there is. This has a direct and immediate in-state impact on air quality and greenhouse gas emission reduction, and is especially powerful since NJ’s electricity supply is relatively carbon-free (compared to many other states).
Sustainable Jersey for Schools Certification Actions
Launched in October 2014, Sustainable Jersey for Schools offers a new slate of 87 actions that districts and schools can accomplish.
Here are a few:
Food Waste Management: For this action, a school may choose to add the recycling of cafeteria and lunchroom food waste to its recycling program. Food waste recycling is especially important because it reduces methane (a highly potent greenhouse gas) production from landfills. Additionally, food waste recycling can reduce costs for schools and institutions.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Promotion Initiatives: A school must host a combination of two pedestrian and bicycle safety education programs or walk and bike to school events and implement one active transportation best practice or infrastructure improvement for walking and bicycling safety. Daily physical activity is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle; in contrast to sitting in a car, active modes of transportation such as walking, bicycling, scootering, and skateboarding to school are great ways for children to meet their daily recommended amount of physical activity.
Energy Audit: A school will inventory the school building portfolio, capture historical energy usage, and identify potential upgrades Schools nationwide have the opportunity to save $2 billion in energy costs through the implementation of energy efficiency strategies and technologies that exist today. Making buildings more energy efficient is one of the most effective strategies for not only reducing costs, but also reducing greenhouse case emissions, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and numerous other strategic benefits associated with a more sustainable energy supply. These audits may take advantage of NJ Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) offerings, many of which include significant incentives that offset or completely eliminate cost.
New Year’s Resolutions A La Sustainable Jersey
We all have good intentions for keeping New Year’s resolutions. If ‘being more sustainable’ is on your list, here are a few resolutions that will be easy to keep and make a real impact. Resolutions are easier when you commit to a plan or group to make them happen!
In 2015, consider the following:
- Participate in your town’s Sustainable Jersey green team. Check the map of participating towns, find your town and get involved.
- Reach out to your school board leadership and/or your local school and encourage the district and school to participate in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. Be a part of the green team that works on achieving certification.
- Fill out an application to join a Sustainable Jersey Task Force or a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Task Force.
For more about Sustainable Jersey: