Three New Jersey Towns Recognized for Sustainability Initiatives

Posted on by Donna Drewes, Co-Director, Sustainable Jersey

Group of Kids Picture

New Brunswick, Ocean Township and Park Ridge Borough look to the future

Donna Drewes

Donna Drewes

Yesterday was the Sustainable Jersey Annual Awards Luncheon held in Atlantic City, despite an often busy lead-up to the actual event, I am proud to report that I did what I call my ‘happy dance’ to celebrate the work of Sustainable Jersey.

This year 50 towns achieved Sustainable Jersey certification. Currently 191 towns are certified and Sustainable Jersey’s 430 participating communities represent nearly 76 percent of the state’s municipalities, and 88 percent of the state’s population. Three towns received Sustainable Jersey awards for their innovative and inspiring work.

Stop-Think-Go Green – Keep New Brunswick Clean!

In an effort to reduce litter, the City of New Brunswick has implemented a litter reduction educational program: Stop-Think-Go Green – Keep New Brunswick Clean! The litter reduction educational program supplements the placement of additional City litter receptacles, continued mechanical and hand street sweeping, continued Clean Communities volunteer clean-ups, School Kids Sweep Up Day, Urban Clean-up Week, inspections and the Clean City Block Captain program

RU and Clean Communities Nov. Post 2015Staff from the City of New Brunswick attended the Sustainable Jersey Annual Awards Luncheon to accept the City’s very first Sustainable Jersey certification designation and the 2015 Sustainable Jersey Creativity and Innovation Award for its litter reduction program called the Clean City Block Captain program. The Creativity and Innovation Award recognizes the development of best practices and strategies by which to pursue sustainability. The New Brunswick Clean City Block Captain program engages neighborhoods through direct community involvement.

“When we’re thinking about being ‘sustainable,’ it is looking beyond making things better for ourselves presently. We’re thinking about how the future will be better for others and how we can keep the sustainable snowball going for generations to come,” said New Brunswick Mayor Jim Cahill.

All residents were encouraged to become Clean City Block Captains. Captains conduct mini clean-ups on their block and educate neighbors about the importance of keeping their block clean. The grass roots effort keeps litter off the streets and builds community bonds block by block. The City provides Block Captains with bags, gloves, educational materials in both English and Spanish along with technical support. Block Captains also promote the City’s “Stop-Think-Go Green – Keep New Brunswick Clean” slogan which encourages people to use trash receptacles and recycle.

Twp of Ocean Arbor Day

Ocean Township Recognized for Sustainable Leadership

Ocean Township, commonly referred to as “Waretown” by local residents, is located in Ocean County and has a population of about 8,332. This year Ocean Township received the 2015 Sustainable Jersey Leadership Award. This award recognizes sustainability efforts that make the most of local resources through exceptional dedication and leadership.

Ocean Township’s strong leadership team has mobilized community volunteers and municipal staff to obtain bronze-level certification and silver-level certification in one year’s time.

The Township of Ocean in Ocean County is striving for a greener future and improving the community’s resiliency is a major focus. As a bayfront community, Ocean Township was affected by Superstorm Sandy with homes, infrastructure, and parks being damaged. The town adopted a 2015 Township of Ocean Floodplain Management Plan that identifies and assesses flood hazards within the Township of Ocean, establishes goals and objectives for floodplain management, and presents a series of actions designed to minimize flooding and migrate the impacts from flooding in the future.

The township is committed to improving resiliency, implementing public outreach and educational events, offering convenient methods for recycling, protecting the environment and wildlife, while building healthier ways of travel with pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths.

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Park Ridge’s Collaborations Advance Sustainability Initiatives

How do you achieve Sustainable Jersey certification when you are a small borough? Well, this year Park Ridge Borough rose to the top by focusing on collaborations. The Borough of Park Ridge is a 2.6 square-mile residential community with about 8,800 people located in the north-central part of Bergen County in a nine-community area known as the Pascack Valley.

“Four years ago, when we first got certified, it was a struggle,” said James McDermott, Chairman of the Park Ridge Borough Green Team. “We felt like pioneers moving into new territory. After the initial certification in 2011, the green team re-grouped and decided to focus on building relationships to make it an easier process. Our green team members get things done because they are passionate about sustainability. We realized that if we did not collaborate with others outside and inside our community, then we were not going to get where we wanted to be.”

On Tuesday, James McDermott and the Park Ridge Green Team received the 2015 Sustainable Jersey Collaboration Award. This award recognizes municipalities that work together or partner with other organizations to address sustainability issues in the community and beyond.

The Park Ridge Green Team partnered with the school district, principals and Parent-Teacher Organizations to implement a comprehensive recycling program. The green team also partnered with various borough groups and regional organizations. Partnership examples include:

  1. The annual stream monitoring program with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection Watershed Ambassadors, the Hackensack Riverkeeper Association and Park Ridge High School Environmental Science students
  2. A comprehensive Wildlife Interaction Plan with the Park Ridge Department of Public Works, the Borough Planner and various non-profits,
  3. The annual regional Bi-State Watershed Cleanup with United Water, Keep Rockland Beautiful, other green teams and towns in both New York and New Jersey
  4. Collaboration with the high school art students to create artwork for the rain garden sign
  5. Several Eagle Scout projects for park improvements, new water refill stations and a new monarch educational garden at each school.

“As a green team we reached high and asked organizations and private companies to help us,” James McDermott added. “Now these same companies and groups are coming back to us with ideas for sustainable initiatives that they want to work on. The opportunities are limitless, you just need to ask.”

The green team also partners with green teams and environmental commissions in ten towns, NJ Clean Communities, Bergen County Clean Communities, the East Brook and West Ridge Parent-Teach Organizations, NJ Tree Foundation, Bergen Audubon, Trout Unlimited, Hackensack River Keeper, Park Ridge Department of Public Works, PSEG, Walmart, United Water, Park Ridge School District, Our Lady of Mercy School, NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers Water Resource Team, AmeriCorps, NJ Ambassadors Program, Boy Scouts of America, Monarch Watch, National Wildlife Federation, Park Ridge Day Camp, Keep Rockland Beautiful and Ciel Power.

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