N.J. Mayors Unite for Environment
Green committee introduces plan to help community leaders take action
By: Michelle Cerone / Staff Writer
Local government officials from across the state united to discuss a plan for making their communities more sustainable at yesterday's meeting for the Mayors' Committee for a Green Future.
The committee has been working with the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute to develop the Green Future Roadmap. The plan is a resource municipalities can use to become environmentally friendly communities. The committee introduced the plan at the meeting as well as information about two tools for improving the environment.
"We are going to make New Jersey green one municipality at a time," said Fred Profeta, the Maplewood deputy mayor for the Environment.
He said the plan defines the criteria towns must meet to be considered green, and provide guidance and incentives to help towns meet these goals.
Profeta, the committee's co-chair, said communities can take steps toward sustainability by holding a green fair, establishing a green curriculum in schools and expanding recycling programs.
"We have to make some decisions as to focus," Profeta said.
This committee introduced information about how to conduct an energy audit for municipal buildings and how to do green purchasing at the meeting held at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.
Profeta said they formed another group, the Sustainable Community Working Group, to come up with ideas for the criteria. He said it would then be up to the committee to decide what their focus would be and to try to get incentives for the municipalities.
Highland Park Mayor Meryl Frank spoke about some of the difficulties in creating a sustainable community. She said the environment is a hot issue right now, but several years ago, it wasn't the case. Frank said when the town first began to put solar panels on their municipal building, there weren't other towns doing it.
"It's something that, five years ago, if you tried to sell it in your community, they'd think you were just a tree hugger," Frank said. "They thought it would be expensive."
She said state restrictions on affordable housing have limited Highland Park's ability to build green communities.
"I feel it needs to be done," said Susan Wolf, a resident of Cherry Hill. "I think it's overwhelming, but it needs to be done."
Wolf said she celebrated the first Earth Day in 1971 while attending Temple University by putting a globe into an old toilet bowl to symbolize where she thought the planet was headed. She said she is glad municipalities all over New Jersey are finally taking action and going green.
"My major concern is how they are going to get more mayors involved," Wolf said.
Profeta said local government is the form of government closest to the people and mayors.
"I think that mayors, council people … know how to talk to their folks, know how to talk to their people, know how to go door to door, know how hand out stuff from the post office," Profeta said. "All those techniques, which we use for politics, we can use for this cause."
Several mayors felt that part of their public service endeavor is to act as the center for their community and for the state, said William Dressel, the executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.
"Frankly, I think that is the only way that this is going to get done," he said.
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