In the 90's "going green" seemed to be a feel good catch phrase attributed only to environmentalist college students who wanted to change the world. Twenty years later, the light bulb (better known now as a CFL) has seemed to finally go "on" in local governments. By definition, the responsibility of sustainable living requires the conservation of vital environmental features, the support of smart economic growth, a fiscally sound energy savings plan, cultural preservation and increased heath awareness. Of course, in achieving these goals, a community must enhance the current quality of life, without negatively impacting that of the future.
In our home state, the Sustainable Jersey initiative was established close to three years ago setting forth strict guidelines for certification of municipalities that take their sustainable obligations seriously. It is the most successful statewide municipal sustainability certification program in the country that recognizes municipalities that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term. By encouraging established programs like the Recreation Comission, the Environmental Commission, the Recycling Program, and Farmland and Open Space Preservation, and by establishing new or revived programs such as the Shade Tree Commission, Economic Development Committee, Teen Advisory Committee and the Green Team, Marlboro Township became one of only 67 communities to receive certification state wide. These governmental initiatives got the ball rolling, but without substantial community involvement these achievements could not have been reached.
With the help of our residents, since 2008, the Shade Tree Commission has obtained grants and donations resulting in the planting of over 1500 trees at no cost to the taxpayer. The Economic Development Committee has helped attract and promote local businesses, with Marlboro adding over 400,000 square feet of commercial space that will bring in close to $500,000.00 per year in tax revenue to the community. The Green Team conducted a door to door compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) distribution event, providing each of 2400 households one florescent bulb to replace one incandescent bulb resulting in decreased energy consumption that saves the community $120,000 over the life of the CFL.
Today, going green is still a feel good concept. However, the real translation to the bottom line is now a primary motivator that inspires communities to govern using sustainable principles.