Ask most people to define sustainability, and they will say ‘not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources.’ While that sounds easy enough, progress comes with a critical hurdle – a lack of resources. Sustainable living requires a change in our lifestyle and begins in our local communities.
Earlier this month, representatives from 34 New Jersey schools and districts gathered to accept a Sustainable Jersey for Schools Grant funded by the PSEG Foundation. Each school was awarded a grant ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, to fund diverse sustainability projects that will help to teach children the importance of green living. These projects would likely not have come to fruition had it not been for these grants.
In February 2009, Sustainable Jersey was established with a vision to help create a healthy and efficient New Jersey. The program helps New Jersey communities set their own sustainability goals and then supports their progress through a program of free workshops, tool-kits and one-on-one support that culminates in certification program for schools and municipalities.
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, and a fully resourced program of technical support and training. Currently, 77%, or 433 of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities, are participating in the municipal certification program and 163 school districts and 430 schools are participating in the new Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program.
The PSEG Foundation is the primary Sustainable Jersey Grants underwriter and over the course of the last five years has provided more than a million dollars to more than 197 community driven projects around the state. Through a strong relationship with Sustainable Jersey, PSEG has allowed community members to drive their own ground-up efforts, and has played a key role in helping to advance sustainability all across New Jersey.
Hammonton, NJ used its grant for a water conservation program that provides credit on the bills of users of the municipal water supply system upon certification that they have purchased and installed water-saving devices, appliances, or other technology.
Students in Monroe Township Oak Tree Elementary School benefit from interdisciplinary green lessons and learning how to care for a variety of plants with their new greenhouse purchased by a Sustainable Jersey grant.
Other funding projects include community outreach and education programs such as food waste recycling, bike/pedestrian trail installations, watershed restoration initiatives, community gardens and dozens more. To qualify for a grant, the municipality or school must be registered in the Sustainable Jersey program and the project must earn points towards the community’s certification.
Sustainable Jersey allows municipalities and schools to implement innovative projects that pioneer new ideas that impact all of New Jersey. As residents, it’s our collective responsibility to protect our environment for future generations. Together, we can provide communities with the tools and resources they need to work toward the future we want.
To learn more about the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program, please visit http://www.sustainablejersey.com/grants-resources/ or, for the school’s program, http://www.sustainablejerseyschools.com/grants-resources/.
Co Director – Sustainable Jersey