Sustainable Township: Green Team receives first Sustainable Jersey certification

Members of the Washington Township Green Team were recognized for programs, initiatives to better create a sustainable community

Washington Township Green Team received the Sustainable Jersey certification plaque at the Sustainable Jersey luncheon at the League of Municipalities meeting on Nov. 14. Pictured from left are Richard Dovey, president of Atlantic County Utilities Authority and chairperson of Sustainable Jersey Board of Trustees; Councilman Sean Longfellow; Vicky Binetti, Washington Township Green Team, Environmental Commission and Open Space Advisory Committee; Leon Lakritz, Washington Township Environmental Commission and Open Space Advisory Committee; Business Administrator Jason Gonter; and Sustainable Jersey Executive Director Randall Solomon.

Washington Township’s efforts to create a sustainable community environmentally, economically and socially have earned the municipality its first bronze-level certification with Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that supports the pursuit of sustainable programs within local regions. Washington Township is one of 208 New Jersey towns to achieve certification this year, with a total of 443 municipalities registered to become certified in the future.

The Washington Township’s Green Team Advisory Committee, created last year through a resolution council approved, is comprised of members across the community, including the township administration, council, Environmental Commission, Planning Board, public works, MUA, school district, chamber of commerce and general public. According to Environmental Commission Vice Chair Vicky Binetti, the group is designed to oversee and guide projects and programs implemented to strengthen community sustainability.

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“The Green Team should be cross-community by design,” Binetti said. “We wanted to address all of what is envisioned as a sustainable community.”

Binetti said the Green Team aims to encompass sustainability in all aspects of the community, following the Sustainable Jersey tag line, “people, planet and prosperity.” To earn the bronze certification, which required the municipality to complete specific actions to earn a minimum of 150 points by June, the committee documented 17 actions in eight categories, totaling 180 points for the designation. Valid for three years, Binetti said, the Green Team hopes to continue sustainable practices to earn the silver certification when the time comes to reapply, which would require a minimum of 350 points.

“It’s a signal of achievement,” Binetti said. “We’re moving toward a future that is good for all of our residents in a whole panoply of ways.”

Washington Township’s various improvements toward a more sustainable future include the community garden located in Washington Lake Park, prescription drug safety and disposal drop boxes at the Washington Township Police Department, green office practices — such as using a percentage of recycled copy paper — Shop Washington Township, as well as several events that took place this year, such as Community Clean-Up Day.

“It is important to me that we take care of our resources and are mindful of being energy efficient so our environment can flourish and we can thrive as a community,” Mayor Joann Gattinelli said. “I am proud of our Environmental Commission and Green Team who have made the Sustainable Township initiative a priority. Washington Township will continue to take steps to care for our environment to ensure Washington Township will always be a great place to live and work.”

Benefits to the certification include access to grants and funding opportunities, as well as tools, training and resources to enable sustainable programs and actions within the community. For example, by being registered with the Sustainable Jersey program, the township received a $2,000 capacity development grant, which allowed for the purchase of a display board used at community fairs and events to announce upcoming activities to the public. It will also fund the reprinting of updated water conservation guides.

Looking toward the future, Gattinelli said initiatives the township is looking to implement include energy efficiency education programs for both residents and businesses.

“With initiatives like these, we will continue to be steadfast in our commitment to improving conditions in our environment,” Gattinelli said.

According to Binetti, the Green Team will also be updating the open space plan, as well as promoting locally grown foods through an “eat fresh, eat local” campaign. Additionally, the committee is looking to create awareness for the local arts and creative activities within the community, providing recognition to all facets of artistic talent.

“We’re hoping all of these things build a stronger sense of community, and strengthen the community as well,” Binetti said.

Binetti, alongside Councilman Sean Longfellow, Business Administrator Jason Gonter and Environmental Commission and Open Space Committee Chair Leon Lakritz, received the certification plaque at the Sustainable Jersey luncheon at the League of Municipalities meeting on Nov. 14. Residents will be able to view the plaque on display in the Municipal Building in the near future.

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