Four Mercer County Sustainability Coalition towns were honored as having met the rigorous requirements to achieve Sustainable Jersey certification at the annual Sustainable Jersey awards luncheon at the NJ League of Municipalities conference in Atlantic City on November 15th: Ewing, Lawrence, Robbinsville, and West Windsor.
There are few who contest the benefits of clean air, fresh water, waterways filled with fish, garbage in its proper place, clean energy options, parks and open space and a healthy place to work and live. The big question is how do we achieve this? For New Jersey towns, the Sustainable Jersey program helps pave the way.
About Sustainable Jersey
Sustainable Jersey is a non-profit organization that provides a framework for municipalities to follow to become more sustainable. Since the program’s inception in 2009, Sustainable Jersey has been providing tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs. Municipalities register for the program, form a green team and then complete sustainability actions that are worth predesignated number of points each. When the point accumulation has reached the designated level, they can be awarded either BRONZE or SILVER certifications.
Each municipality that is certified at the bronze-level must submit documentation to show it has completed a balance of the program’s sustainability actions, meeting a minimum of 150 points. Silver-level certification requires that a town meet a minimum of 350 points. Currently, over 440 towns are participating in the program. Of those towns, 198 are certified; 41 at the SILVER level and 157 at the BRONZE level. Mercer County towns are strong participants in the program. Most have either BRONZE or SILVER level certification and the rest are actively working towards their first certification.
2016 Certification Awardees
Robbinsville Township is a two time Sustainable Jersey BRONZE certification award holder. They are certified at 155 points. Highlights from the numerous actions that contributed to their certification include the resurrection of the Robbinsville Farmers’ market and a local green fair.
Robbinsville Township assumed control of the Robbinsville Farmers’ market from a private entity and are proud to have resurrected the 13-week event, which saw an average of 300 consumers and 15 vendors each Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. from June through September. For more information about the Market please see
Additionally, on June 11, 2016, the Township held its first Green Fair, which was sponsored by the Robbinsville Green Team and Environmental Commission. The inaugural Green fair featured 25 vendors from three specialties – Health, Home, and Environment. Robbinsville showcased three hybrid vehicles, a “Green” interactive trailer, courtesy of neighboring Monroe Township, a bicycle recycling collection booth and a number of other interactive exhibits containing numerous handouts and resources to encourage the community to adopt a more sustainable way of life.
Lawrence Township has been certified five times, four at the BRONZE level and this time receiving their first SILVER level certification at 365 points by completing 35 actions in 11 categories. Several important efforts in Lawrence were to be the first town to pass a complete streets ordinance and implement the town’s first complete street that includes bike lanes and sidewalks. Lawrence was a founding member of the Mercer Sustainability Coalition.
Hosting a green fair for many years, Lawrence collaborated in 2016 with five other Mercer County green teams to plan and co-sponsor the Living Local Expo at Rider University. A new milestone was achieved with Sustainable Lawrence and Lawrence Green Team reaching out to Rider University and professor Brook Hunter’s Capstone Seminar on Sustainability. They analyzed the achievements of Lawrence Township’s work on sustainability and documented their progress on accomplishing the Sustainable Jersey requirements. The semester long effort brought Rider students, town volunteers and Lawrence Township staff together for a rewarding and fruitful effort in accomplishing silver certifications. .
West Windsor Township is also a multiple award winner. They have received SILVER level certification three times since 2013. This year again, they were proud to earn their third SILVER Award from Sustainable Jersey with 410 points. Actions that contributed to this impressive accomplishment are focused in a great part on Sustainability Planning, Reduction of Energy Usage and protection of Natural Resources.
The West Windsor Environmental Commission is working diligently with the Twp. on plans to reduce West Windsor’s carbon footprint for both the municipality and the community. Their Climate Action Plan will shortly be submitted for Council’s approval after three years of hard work. Reduction of energy usage was at the forefront of their accomplishments with a municipal building inventory and energy audit, a Direct Install outreach campaign for local businesses, green energy purchasing, a geothermal project, and on-site solar at the senior center.
This year, the WWEC also created a Green Business Recognition Award for businesses who focus on sustainable practices. One large corporation and one small business will be recognized which they hope will inspire & set an example for other businesses to follow suit. The award uses a Criteria Checklist involving such actions as storm water management; energy, resource & water conservation measures; recycling; transportation; and social responsibility. The awards will be presented on Earth Day. West Windsor Public Schools are also an active partner in promoting a more sustainable West Windsor. With the support of the WW Superintendent of Schools, all schools in the WW & Plainsboro School District enrolled in Sustainable Schools in 2016. Each school is starting to create their Green Teams and choosing actions that are priorities for them. More details to follow as information is available. And finally, among the numerous actions promoting the township’s natural resources, they have updated their Wildlife Interaction Plan. Finding humane solutions to their increasing deer population problem will be a top priority.
Ewing Township has received Sustainable Jersey certification twice. The first time was at the BRONZE level in 2013 and they received their first SILVER level certification in November 2016 with 460 points. In addition, Ewing received a Sustainability Champion award for earning the greatest number of points for a medium-sized municipality in 2016. Ewing completed actions in five key areas to generate over half of the points for their SILVER certification. These included Sustainability Planning, Natural Resources, Brownfields, Land Use and Transportation and Community Partnership and Outreach.
In 2014, following Ewing’s Bronze certification, the Ewing Green Team decided to take stock before moving forward. They wanted to build on Ewing’s success and sustainability momentum, increase their capacity as a green team, engage more citizens, and solicit community input for future sustainability planning. This activity and others in the sustainability planning action area led them to the completion of a strategic plan. This plan now guides their activities and informs their decisions on important issues to tackle. It details the goals that were developed in the Community Visioning process, identifies the practical actions necessary to achieve them and outlined strategies for continuing to grow organizational capacity. Of all their many activities, the Ewing Green Team credits their community visioning with having the greatest impact on their ability to move sustainability activities forward.
Communities in our county include:
- Princeton – SILVER certification in 2015 with 420 points
- East Windsor – SILVER certification in 2015 with 355 points.
- Hopewell Twp – BRONZE certification in 2014 with 155 points
- Trenton – SILVER certification in 2015 with 365 points
- Hightstown – BRONZE certification in 2014 with 300 points
Look for our annual report coming out early next year to learn more details about how Mercer communities are working together and in their towns to create a greener state. Our county rocks!