NJ Sustainability Summit combines vision with action
The 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit confirmed my belief that we have a movement. We the people–we the green teams and environmental commissions, committed local citizens, business administrators and local leaders–we believe that we can make change from the bottom up for a sustainable New Jersey, and we are. We have a vision and we are taking action.
Over 350 change-makers from across the political, private and public sectors attended this year’s sold-out New Jersey Sustainability Summit on June 21, 2018. The Sustainability Summit included an inspiring keynote address from First Lady Tammy Murphy, and a total of 12 breakout sessions with topics ranging from “Goin’ Green by Makin’ Green” and “It’s Electric” to “Plastic Pollution Solution.” Thank you to everyone that participated for lending your time and talents to this endeavor.
As Sustainable Jersey approaches our ten-year anniversary, we’re starting to see the impact of our participants’ work at the local level. We have almost hit the eighty percent participation mark with 447 of New Jersey’s 565 towns engaged in the municipal certification program. Also, over 1,000 school districts and schools are participating in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program. Thousands of local volunteers and officials have dedicated their time and resources toward implementing Sustainable Jersey’s best practices and meeting the standards set by the program, and it’s making a difference. We’re creating a movement from the bottom up.
Take, for example, the current momentum in New Jersey to reduce single-use plastics. By completing Sustainable Jersey actions such as the Reusable Bag Education Program and the Recycling and Waste Reduction Education, and implementing innovative projects funded by Sustainable Jersey grants, municipalities and schools have been educating their communities about the single-use plastics problem for years.
Recently groups like Sustainable Downbeach formed and have taken this issue to the next level. Sustainable Downbeach is comprised of the Longport, Margate, Ventnor and Atlantic City green teams. The four Atlantic County municipalities have achieved Sustainable Jersey certification at the bronze-level and, through Sustainable Downbeach, were instrumental in helping Longport become the first municipality in New Jersey to adopt a carry-out bag fee ordinance in November 2015.
This was followed by resolutions in Galloway and Upper Township; a fee on bags in Teaneck and Ventnor; and bag bans in Jersey City, Long Beach, Monmouth Beach and Harvey Cedars, with Hoboken soon following suit. This issue is now being considered by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy at the state level with the state plastic and paper bag legislation. Based on guidance from the green teams, Sustainable Jersey is revising our plastics action in order to make it more impactful and relevant to the current situation. The movement is growing across the state, thanks to pressure and education provided by the green teams on the ground.
As an organization, Sustainable Jersey is in a unique position to be a connecting force between local communities and public, private and governmental entities. When communities act individually, they can solve their own problems; when they act together, the hope is that we can address challenges across New Jersey and then make progress on national and global problems.
We’re taking the same approach with our new Gold Star Standards in Energy and Waste, and soon in Water. A highlight of the Sustainability Summit was conferring an award to Woodbridge Township for being the first municipality to achieve the Sustainable Jersey Gold Star Standard in Energy. If every municipality in New Jersey were to perform at the same level as Woodbridge, we would be achieving our goals for fighting climate change and reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
If you were not able to attend the 2018 New Jersey Sustainability Summit, below are a few videos, presentations and materials that you can review.
- 2018 Sustainability Summit Videos: Watch the summit videos including the keynote address by New Jersey’s First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy, followed by a speech from the NJ Board of Public Utilities President Joseph L. Fiordaliso: http://www.sustainablejersey.com/media-communications/videos/
- 2018 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report: The report suggests 57 goals that define a vision of sustainability for New Jersey. Each goal has indicators that provide clues as to how New Jersey is doing in achieving these sustainability goals. For each goal there is a brief assessment of our progress as a state. Also, the establishment of “Gold,” Sustainable Jersey’s highest level of certification, forges the link between the municipal program and the broader, long-term outcomes desired. This is outlined on the Gold Star Standard page.