Sustainable Jersey

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Sustainable Jersey

United States
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Sustainable Jersey is a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, save money, and sustain their quality of life. It provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue sustainability programs. The program uses the framework of “municipal certification” to break new ground in establishing meaningful community partnerships and developing effective intergovernmental coordination.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Before the program was launched in 2009, most local governments did not have the capacity to address sustainability issues effectively, much less develop policies and ordinances to enable citizens to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Sustainable Jersey has bridged connections between academics, state agencies, government officials and corporations to support and grow the program. The program uses the institutional framework of “municipal certification” to break new ground in establishing meaningful public-private partnerships and developing effective intergovernmental coordination. Sustainable Jersey has proven effective in improving the existing methods that communities pursue sustainable projects because it provides towns that enter the program with a comprehensive package of tools, guidance materials, training, and financial incentives, to support and reward progress. Sustainable Jersey provides direction and resources for municipalities to institute programs that address sustainability and green communities.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Most local governments do not have the capacity to address sustainability issues effectively, much less develop policies and ordinances to enable citizens to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Sustainable Jersey has proven effective in improving the existing methods that communities use to pursue sustainable projects because it provides towns that enter the program with a comprehensive package of tools, guidance materials, training, and financial incentives to support and reward progress. Key Innovative Elements: Local Government Focus: Local governments, as the level of governance closest to citizens, have the highest potential for effecting real change – by raising awareness, informing and mobilizing people to act. Specific Menu of Actions: The program provides local governments with a clear mission and a menu of sustainable actions to achieve. Measurement: The program provides results-oriented measurement of sustainable goals which is the core of an effective sustainability program. Champions: The program includes a coalition of motivated leaders and spokespeople to promote the program with peers and the local community. Constructive Competition: Local governments compete for recognition and reward by achieving points in the certification program. The competitive recognition and reward model is more effective and faster for fostering participation and action than regulation and requirements dictated directly from state and national policy. Promotional Partnerships: Partnerships with state agencies, utilities, and private companies provide recognition and funding to further motivate action and change. Sustainable Jersey has bridged connections between academics, state agencies, government officials and corporations to support and grow the program.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

New Jersey is the first state in the nation to have a comprehensive sustainability program for communities that links certification with strong state and private financial incentives, and a program of technical support and training. Sustainable Jersey has streamlined, incentivized and guided the process of transforming the state’s 566 municipalities, many at different stages of going green, into a network of sustainable communities. In over a year, more than half of the municipalities (288 towns across all 21 counties) have registered to become Sustainable Jersey certified. Most importantly, 34 towns achieved certification. Towns are telling us that the program has transformed their conversations from ‘what can we do?’ to ‘let’s get this done!’ Across New Jersey, the most densely populated and urban state in the country, hundreds of towns are now working on sustainability programs to help the environment and their bottom lines. Efforts to curb carbon emissions, protect natural resources and reduce waste are bubbling up from the local level. Registered towns are large and small and in urban and rural areas, including cities like Camden, Trenton and Jersey City and their rural counterparts in Alexandria, North Hanover and Lumberton. Through the program, communities are implementing solar power and wind turbine projects, rain capture and reuse efforts, new walking and biking programs, building and operating community food gardens, launching community outreach programs on recycling and energy, and dozens of other initiatives.
About You
Sustainable Jersey
Visit website
About You
First Name


Last Name



Sustainable Jersey


, NJ, Essex County

About Your Organization
Organization Name

Sustainable Jersey

Organization Phone


Organization Address

Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey, McCauley House, PO Box 7718, Ewing, NJ 08628-0718

Organization Country

, NJ

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Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, NJ

Do you have a patent for this idea?


In addition to the need for sustained funding and additional staff, Sustainable Jersey has had to work hard to manage a broad and diverse partnership to develop and manage the program. Sustainable Jersey has been able to achieve a high degree of buy-in from government, the business community, and non-governmental organizations, and has been able to leverage knowledge and resources from each. However, this governance structure challenges existing institutional boundaries and roles, and requires a great deal of nurturing, diplomacy and management to hold together. To address this structure challenge, the program partners are looking into forming a 501(c)(3) structure or further defining the decision-making process to prevent problems as the program grows.


The key partners and stakeholders for the Sustainable Jersey program are scheduling a facilitated meeting in September to discuss and form recommendations for developing a structure and decision-making process that will grow and support the Sustainable Jersey program.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

To develop the future work program, the project partners have convened multiple focus groups of leaders from participating communities (known as Sustainable Communities’ Working Groups(SCWG)), along with the core program partners to determine how best to support communities’ efforts to achieve certification and be successful in the future.

The program will focus on supporting municipalities registered with the program by assessing what actions municipalities used as program entry actions and making the program work better by making the tools clearer and more meaningful to long term sustainable development; resolving program barriers at the State government level that hinder sustainable development progress; improving the skills of the Green Team members to mobilize and manage the staff and volunteer resources necessary to complete certification actions; preserving and expanding the highly respected brand of the certification program through leadership by the Mayors’ Committee for A Green Future (MCGF)in outreach and communications initiatives to municipal and state leaders; providing training and technical support for emerging and experienced municipalities utilizing webinars, training sessions, access to experts, and continuing to leverage the resources and skills of strategic partners from NGO’s, new State agencies, academic partners, and businesses to sustain and build new program linkages and delivery systems.

The MCGF will forge new strategic partnerships with Governor Chris Christie and the new slate of Commissioners at the Department of Environmental Protection, Treasury, Department of Community Affairs and the Board of Public Utilities. MCGF will continue advocacy for continued linkages to state programs, policies and funding resources required to keep the program moving forward in the new administration.

The program will focus the work of the SCWG Task Forces on making the actions “better,” supporting training, developing tracking and measurement tools to define progress, and beginning discussions on what the “gold” level of certification should include to guide program work in 2013.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The future of Sustainable Jersey will depend on identifying a sustainable funding source and maintaining the integrity and substance of the current certification program. Sustainable Jersey has to continue to be a leader on sustainability and state-wide policy issues. The certification program will be enhanced to include a “gold” level of certification to satisfy the towns that are striving for the highest level of sustainability.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Please select

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

The New Jersey State League of Municipalities and the Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have a non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Sustainable Jersey is a partnership of mayors, academic institutions and state agencies. The Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future serves as the advisory board that gives frank advice on what works at the local level. The Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey manages the program substance. State agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities give insight into how the program’s actions work within state programs and regulations.

To create a rigorous and consensus seeking process to populate Sustainable Jersey with actions we convened a Sustainable Communities Working Group (SCWG). The SCWG brings together New Jersey leaders to research and disseminate best practices, translate global and state imperatives into local actions, test sustainability planning models, and develop community resources. The SCWG consists of over 150 leaders, experts, and organizations including state agencies, universities, non-profit organizations and business leaders.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

In order to grow Sustainable Jersey needs funds and staff to work with the project partners to support expanded training, technical assistance and program support for municipal sustainability efforts implemented through the Sustainable Jersey program.

The Story
What was the defining moment that you led to this innovation?

In 2006, the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM) teamed with two environmentally committed mayors, Meryl Frank of Highland Park and Fred Profeta of Maplewood to foster environmental progress throughout New Jersey. It was decided that meaningful environmental change at the local level would not occur without the leadership of a hard-working group of mayors. The NJLM Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future (MCGF) was formed and Fred Profeta is the current Chairman.

The MCGF joined forces with the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University (NJSSI) and the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey ([email protected]) to develop the certification criteria and tools that became the basis for the Sustainable Jersey program. Early support for the effort also included the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey Office of Smart Growth and the Rutgers Center for Green Building.

In 2007, development of the Sustainable Jersey certification program continued and the MCGF, NJSSI and [email protected] formed and facilitated a Sustainable Communities’ Working Group which consisted of approximately 150 New Jersey leaders, experts, and organizations including government agencies, non-profit organizations and businesses. Thirteen different task forces were established to identify specific aspects of local greening and sustainable development. After more than a year of intensive work, the Sustainable Jersey program took final form and was launched in February of 2009.

Sustainable Jersey strives for a better tomorrow one community at a time. The program encompasses the three equal, interrelated components of sustainability:

• Prosperity – support your local economy and use community resources
• Planet – practice responsible environmental management and conservation
• People – embrace social equity and fairness

The program is a consensus oriented, science based, politically relevant effort to align the interests and resources of actors from state and local, public and private, for the common purpose of achieving a sustainable New Jersey and world.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Sustainable Jersey is a partnership that has at least three social innovators as follows:

Fred Profeta, Jr., Deputy Mayor, Maplewood Township, New Jersey and Chair of the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ Mayors Committee for a Green Future which leads the innovative Sustainable Jersey municipal certification program. Profeta has brought an emphasis on environmental achievement to the local scene and across New Jersey. This theme has found its way into many Maplewood municipal documents and projects, including Redevelopment Plans, the construction of a new LEED certified Police Station, and an Environmental Action Plan. Maplewood was named a “Climate Champion of the Year” by Clean Air-Cool Planet in 2007, and received an EPA award for environmental excellence in 2008. In April 2009, Profeta received a personal Green Leadership award from the United States Green Building Council. In November 2009, Profeta and Maplewood Township were awarded the inaugural 2009 Sustainable Jersey Leadership Award. Profeta speaks widely around New Jersey to promote Sustainable Jersey and he presented at the 2009 Local Government Climate Change Leadership Summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Randy Solomon, Founding Partner, Sustainable Jersey Program and a Senior Advisor at The Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey. Mr. Solomon is one of the partners that developed and continues to manage the rigorous Sustainable Jersey actions and overall program. Mr. Solomon's policy experience includes positions as a policy advisor on sustainable development for the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, director of the States Campaign for the Resource Renewal Institute in San Francisco, and policy director for the non-profit New Jersey Future. He has participated on advisory boards for federal and state government, civic organizations, and has advised major corporations. He writes and speaks frequently on sustainable development, land use policy, and using indicators in public decision making.

Donna Drewes, Founding Partner, Sustainable Jersey and Community Planner at The Municipal Land Use Center at The College of New Jersey ([email protected]) has nearly 30 years’ experience in community and natural resource planning in New Jersey. Her work at the [email protected] with municipalities in NJ focuses on sustainability, livable communities and transportation issues. Ms. Drewes has worked as a professional planning consultant in the private sector and for both public agencies and non-governmental organizations. Her experience includes extensive work in the development of master plan and conservation plan elements, background reports and ordinance drafting with an emphasis on rural and environmental resource management issues.

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