Sustainable Voorhees on a green path

By Sean Patrick Murphy

Slowly but surely, Sustainable Voorhees is on its way to making the township a greener place.

According to its literature, Sustainable Voorhees is a group of 14 township residents who seek to engage their community and township government in identifying and implementing opportunities for sustainable residential, municipal and commercial practices fostering the responsible stewardship of the township’s resources as they relate to and affect the interdependent sustainability of Voorhees Township and the surrounding regional communities.

Suzy Sherbine, director of Sustainable Voorhees for two years, said the group needs to address the community through education and outreach.

“We need to raise awareness about regional interdependency,” she said. “Interdependency is a critical factor in sustainability.”

Sustainable Voorhees has been certified by Sustainable Jersey, a statewide certification program.

According to its website, Sustainable Jersey identifies concrete actions that municipalities can implement to become certified and be considered leaders on the path to sustainable communities; provides clear “how to” guidance and tools to enable communities to make progress on each action; and provides access to grants, and identifies existing and new funding opportunities for municipalities to make progress toward the actions.

In an effort to promote sustainability, education, and public/private partnerships, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the New Jersey League of Municipalities’ Education Foundation, and the NJLM Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future established the Sustainable Jersey Small Grants Program. This is the third year that Wal-Mart has funded the grants program, bringing their total contribution over three years to $595,000.

Sherbine said she came to the group as a mother concerned with the environment. She said she wants sustainability to be taught at all levels of education, “that will weave like a thread all through every course that they take.”

Sherbine said the group’s green team includes an architect and a green engineer.

She said doing something to help the community is the most rewarding part of working with the group.

“It gives you a sense that we’re moving in the right direction,” Sherbine said. “This will be a grassroots effort for America to turn itself around.”

She compared what our society faces as far as climate change goes to as what the Titanic faced.

“We see the iceberg,” Sherbine said. “We do have a chance to turn ourselves around.

“What I ultimately believe is that Voorhees is a leadership community,” she added. “We have been blessed with so much talent and intelligence and resources in this community.”

Sherbine, an artist who had never sat on a board before, said Voorhees should be a model community for the state as far as sustainability goes.

Eric Nelson, committee member, said his wife, an environmental engineer, got him involved with Sustainable Voorhees.

“I think it’s a good and valuable program that’s very well organized by Sustainable Jersey,” Nelson said.

He said his children’s level of environmental awareness is much greater than when he was a child and credits the schools

“I think they’re doing a good job but it needs to be constantly reinforced,” Nelson said.

A civil engineer, Nelson said he is “into” energy savings.

“I hope that if we can sort of drive home the point to residents and contractors and developers that this is necessary and valuable thing,” he said,

Jay Sherbine, a member of the planning board and Suzy’s husband, said once certified the township is given points toward state grants for being sustainable.

The three levels of certification are bronze, silver, and gold, all reached by winning points for actions taken. Sustainable Voorhees is currently at the bronze level.

Sustainable Voorhees will next meet on August 29.

To contact Suzy Sherbine, email her at suzysherbine@gmail.com or call 856–719–1759 or 609–330–3046.