A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve environmental conditions has awarded the town of Secaucus with its second highest honor.
Sustainable Jersey representatives announced recently that Secaucus has met its requirements to achieve Sustainable Jersey certification. Secaucus is one of 117 towns of the state’s nearly 400 participating municipalities that has attained bronze certification.
The town had been working on achieving this objective for nearly two years, working to report on initiatives already completed, and finishing up projects in time for the review.
The certified towns were recognized at the fifth annual Sustainable Jersey awards luncheon on Nov. 19 at the 98th Annual New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City.
Secaucus was honored at the group’s special luncheon, with Town Administrator David Drumeler and Town Environmental Coordinator Amanda Nesheiwat accepting the award.
Mayor Michael Gonnelli, a long-time champion of conservation and open space, expressed his satisfaction about the town attaining the honor.
"Secaucus strives to be a sustainable community,” he said. “We are thankful that programs like Sustainable Jersey can help us to continue to move forward and enhance our sustainability efforts."
"Attaining Sustainable Jersey certification required a big commitment from our residents and our mayor and council,” said Nesheiwat, “and I am really proud at what we've been able to achieve together.”
To become Sustainable Jersey certified, the town had to submit documentation to show it had completed a number of the required actions, meeting a minimum of 150 points to be certified bronze, the second highest level.
In addition to reaching 150 points, each community had to create a Green Team and select at least two out of seven priority action options.
“We have a Green Team that could use more members.” – Amanda Nesheiwat
“Other actions taken by Secaucus included community gardens, solar projects, a farmers market, green festivals, energy audits on municipal buildings, community education and outreach, a pledge supporting the New Jersey wildlife action plan, and even a completed action (plan) to build healthier communities,” she said.
Getting the certification was an administration-wide effort, according to Nesheiwat. The mayor and council members; town administrator, clerk and assistant attorney; the social services, health, police and public works departments; and Environmental Committee and Green Team all participated.
"Becoming Sustainable Jersey certified is a significant achievement," said Pam Mount, chair of the Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees. "The certified towns demonstrate tremendous leadership and are a testament to how much we can accomplish with impressive sustainability initiatives in New Jersey."
Certified towns excelled in areas such as improving energy efficiency and health and wellness, reducing waste, sustaining local economies, and protecting natural resources, she said.
Nesheiwat said that Secaucus will be striving higher next year, aiming for the Silver grading.
“The Silver certification requires us to complete things like energy audits, and natural resource inventories, which we are in the process of completing,” she said. “Secaucus is certainly going to strive for silver and we are aiming to be recognized for Silver certification for next year’s awards ceremony.”
Whether or not they qualify for the higher honor, the town has several goals already in mind for 2014. They include conducting energy audits and upgrades to municipal buildings and updating the municipality’s master plan to incorporate a recreation and open space component.
New initiatives may also include programs to promote greater use of public transportation and bicycling.
Residents can put their two cents in by getting involved with the town’s community gardens, and attending Secaucus’ annual Green Festival to learn more about how to reduce household energy use, how to compost, and the importance of recycling and reducing their impact on the environment.
“Perhaps the most important thing residents can do to lower their carbon footprint is to grow your own garden,” the environmental coordinator said. “All of these allow us to gather points from Sustainable Jersey.”
Individuals interested in getting more involved can call Nesheiwat at (201) 86-GREEN or email her at email@example.com.
“We have a Green Team that could use more members,” she said. “Volunteers have always been an important aspect of this type of endeavor.”
Launched in 2009, Sustainable Jersey is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. Part of its mission is the certification program for state municipalities that the group oversees.
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.
The Sustainable Jersey certification is 100 percent voluntary, with each town choosing whether it wants to participate in the program, and if so, which initiatives to implement to achieve the ranking.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.