Sustainable Jersey™ is a certification program for municipalities taking demonstrative steps toward becoming sustainable communities. Municipalities complete action steps across a wide variety of categories, including, but not limited to, energy efficiency, health and wellness, natural resources, and green design. Each action completed scores points for the municipality toward achieving the goal of sustainability certification. It is a prestigious accomplishment. As of July 2011, seventy-four municipalities have been certified, and 344 are currently registered for the program. Sustainable Jersey™ certification represents an important step toward sustainability in local communities.
As part of this program, Hardyston Township has established a “Green Team,” a committee of municipal officials, local high school students, and area business leaders who work with the Township to lead discussions about and planning for sustainable community practices. The Green Team plays a vital role in leading the Township toward sustainability certification by providing an influx of ideas and practical goals by which to measure Hardyston’s efforts.
Hardyston Township has recently made a series of concrete efforts to establish sustainability. The Council will be considering the report of findings and recommendations from the Green Team’s subcommittee tasked with analyzing the value of transitioning away from mailing paper information packets to council and board members relative to upcoming meetings and moving toward establishing a “Paperless Township Council /Board” system, where all communications and materials will be provided to members electronically. Based on the Team’s recommendations, this initiative should be implemented prior to the year’s end. By going paperless, the Council will be making the conscious effort to promote a more efficient and “green” government and also save significant funds by eliminating copying and postage costs.
The Team has also done extensive work relative to the concept of creating a Community Garden. A grant application has recently been submitted to Sustainable Jersey, which, if funded, will provide monies to move forward with the garden project. The Community Garden is an effort to bring sustainability into the everyday lives of Hardyston residents. Residents will be able to farm their own plot of land or their own raised garden bed within the Community Garden, growing their own produce in order to defray food costs in the current uncertain economic climate. In addition to the individual plots, a philanthropic garden is also proposed, which will be maintained by the Green Team and other volunteer groups, for the purpose of sharing the garden’s produce with needy area families. It is anticipated that the fruits and vegetables produced from this garden effort will be donated to local charities and food banks, extending the benefits of healthier, sustainable habits to those in need.
These projects supplement the previous commitment that Hardyston Township has shown to establishing sustainability, which include the solar panels at the Municipal Building and implementing energy efficiency improvements recommended through energy audits of its various facilities. These improvements, which reduce the Municipal Building’s carbon footprint, serve as an example of the success of practical sustainability initiatives in local municipalities.