Leaders Meet at 2016 Sustainability Summit to Track New Jersey’s Progress and Receive the Much Anticipated Gold Star Standards for Waste and Energy

on Jun 15, 2016

2016 Sustainable State of the State Report and a new gold Sustainable Jersey standard released;  NJ Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program and Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge announced.

Today over 300 mayors, municipal and school district staff, environmental commission and green team members together with state agency and non-profit employees, academics, businesses and the interested public met at The College of New Jersey to discuss strategies to make New Jersey’s future more just, inclusive and sustainable at the 2016 New Jersey Sustainability Summit.  

“This unique Sustainability Summit, the largest sustainability gathering held in New Jersey, sets us on a defined course. And Sustainable Jersey broke new ground with the release of the first elements of the gold standard for energy and waste,” said Rick Dovey, chair of the Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees. “It is not an end point, but a starting point for making real progress.”

The event began with a welcome from Dr. Barbara Gitenstein, president of The College of New Jersey and a keynote address by Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central, followed by an update on New Jersey’s Sustainable State of the State Report and a preview of the Sustainable Jersey gold standard for energy and waste.

The one-day summit included more than 50 experts and practitioners that led 15 concurrent sustainability sessions where attendees discussed issues ranging from energy, waste, economic development and education to the arts and creative culture. The event abounded with connectors and thought leaders creating fertile ground within and between sessions.

“The 2016 State of the State Report is a critical document for New Jersey that serves as a report card on our progress while defining a gold standard for municipalities in terms of measured outcomes rather than prescriptive actions represents a bold step that no other state-level program has taken. We want to build consensus around the future we want and about how to track progress. The Summit gave us a valuable opportunity to continue to work toward these goals,” said Sustainable Jersey Co-Director Randall Solomon who co-authored the State of the State Report with colleague Melanie Hughes McDermott, Ph.D., a senior researcher for Sustainable Jersey. 

HIGHLIGHTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • Release of the 2016 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report: The overall picture for New Jersey points to mounting challenges. In 2016, the state’s performance on two additional goals merited a ‘thumbs down,’ so that overall New Jersey is moving in an unsustainable direction for 27 out of the 57 goals. There is good news as well. Racial and ethnic disparities narrowed in education and health. Violent crime continued to drop, air quality is improving and renewable energy production is up.
  • Release of the Sustainable State 2016 Update and the New Gold Standard: 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. The roll-out of gold began with energy and waste because they are fundamental dimensions of sustainability for which there are widely accepted metrics of performance supported by readily available quantitative data.
  • Announcement of New Jersey’s Electric Vehicle Charging Grant Program-It Pays to Plug In: Bob Martin, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Richard Mroz, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities announced the Workplace Charging Grant Program which provides grants to employers to offset the cost of purchasing and installing electric vehicle charging stations. This program is designed to support and encourage employees to purchase and drive electric vehicles to work, which reduces vehicle emissions.
  • Announcement of the Sustainable Jersey Solar Challenge: Sustainable Jersey and EnergySage announced a new program that is designed to provide a simple, cost effective way to help municipalities drive interest among homeowners and small businesses to install solar. This 6-month community-led program allows communities to take advantage of an online marketplace and a suite of locally-branded social media marketing tools to facilitate access to information and resources regarding solar installation. Through careful vetting of contractors and online competition, the program increases confidence and lowers the time and costs associated with installing solar on residences and businesses.  
  • Key Note Speaker Dr. Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central: Dr. Strauss provided a moving speech about the impacts of climate change, particularly on sea level rise and the flooding impacts expected in New Jersey. With graphic maps, he showed what the future looks like if New Jersey is able to lower greenhouse gas emissions now versus not lowering them.

Sustainable Jersey is a network and movement of 437 municipalities and 666 schools and school districts working collectively to achieve a sustainable future. “I’m encouraged by the level of energy at the Sustainability Summit. Attendees made it clear that they are ready to make the changes necessary. Sustainable Jersey is succeeding in changing the way people view New Jersey and our participants care passionately about their communities so they want to take action to improve their quality of life. The rigorous Sustainable Jersey certification framework allows New Jersey towns to tell their positive stories,” said Donna Drewes, co-director of Sustainable Jersey.

 

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