Since 2009, Sustainable Jersey has empowered municipalities through training, financial incentives and support to develop sustainability programs that will build a better tomorrow one community at a time.
Sustainable Jersey began as an informal partnership that has evolved and been shaped by the contributions and perspectives of many. In 2006, The College of New Jersey was funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation to create a “Sustainable Communities Leadership Network.” The network was tasked with supporting municipal progress toward sustainable development by identifying best practices, facilitating peer to peer learning, developing metrics to judge performance and providing direct technical support and training. Around the same time, a group of mayors at the New Jersey League of Municipalities (NJLM) was coming together to form a “green mayors” group that would work to support similar activities. Concurrently, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities were also working on sustainable community related initiatives.
The four parties agreed to come together under one banner and began to collaborate on the program that eventually became Sustainable Jersey. The NJLM established the Mayors Committee for a Green Future to be their official body that acted on behalf of the League in support of the Sustainable Jersey program. The State agencies participate in policy development for the program and integrate Sustainable Jersey into their existing grant programs as bonus points to provide an incentive for municipalities to participate.
In 2007, a Sustainable Communities Working Group was formed that 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 each sustainability category of the certification program. After more than a year of intensive work, the Sustainable Jersey program took final form and was launched in February of 2009. In Winter 2011/2012, Sustainable Jersey evolved from a partnership into a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a Board of Trustees.
On June 25, 2013, Sustainable Jersey and the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) announced plans to create a voluntary sustainability certification program called “Sustainable Jersey for Schools,” designed specifically for New Jersey’s public school districts and public charter schools. Similar to the municipal program, Sustainable Jersey for Schools convened experts, local school officials, educators and other stakeholders to determine the content of the program. On July 22, 2013 over 100 people attended a kick-off meeting at The College of New Jersey where working groups, representing the various partners began to define the program standards and actions that would advance schools toward certification.