By Lynn Robbins
When Bordentown City received silver certification from Sustainable Jersey this past October, the two women who were key in making it happen heralded the news but refused the kudos for themselves alone. It was a community effort, insisted Cathy Elliot-Shaw and Cindy Gallagher, co-chairs of the town’s green team.
“It took a village,” Elliot-Shaw said. “There were so many people who contributed, including community volunteers, municipal employees and officials.”
Sustainable Jersey is a certification program for state municipalities that want to “go green.” Towns become certified by earning points for taking sustainable actions such as forming a green team, tracking and managing energy usage, hosting educational events, or starting community gardens.
“It’s not just about hugging trees,” Elliot-Shaw said.
A town can qualify for a bronze award by scoring at least 150 points, or a silver award by scoring at least 350 points.
Bordentown City totaled 390 points, which earned the city the silver award, achieved by only 12 towns statewide. Bordentown also received the
Sustainability Champion award in the small municipality category for scoring the most number of points in that group.
“The Green Team engenders a sense of ‘we can all do this with a little help from you — our neighbors, our businesses owners and our governing body and city staff,’” Gallagher said, quoting anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
“The silver certification means we are viable,” Gallagher said. “It also means access to grant monies for many different actions, perhaps a community garden, or a green car purchase for our city fleet.”
The environmental commission and the green team filed its application for the silver certificate in June 2013 and finalized it in September, completing 39 actions this year. Highlights include creating no idling zones, forming a creative team, and hosting a green fair, a rain barrel workshop, a composting workshop and a lighting fair.
The Green Fair is an educational event focusing on sustainable products and services. Exhibitions and demonstrations cover energy conservation, environmental protection, wildlife, recycling and up-cycling, health and wellness, and locally produced food and merchandise.
The rain barrel workshop focuses on making or buying and installing barrels for collecting rain water that residents use to conserve faucet water and to reduce the town’s storm water runoff. Residents use the water to hydrate their garden or lawns, or wash their cars.
The composting workshop teaches participants how to create a natural soil enhancer from vegetable scraps, leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, tea bags and other items. The resulting compost can fertilize gardens, plants and lawns. A few perks of composting include saving money, reducing garbage volume and reducing chemical fertilizer usage.
The lighting fair gives attendees tips on reducing their electric bills. Residents at Bordentown’s September fair were able to purchase a package of energy efficient lighting products valued at $100 for the cost of $10.
No idling zones encourage drivers to turn off their engines. The municipality installed signage to remind drivers that idling a vehicle for three minutes or more is against the law. Curbing vehicle idling is said to reduce pollution and foreign oil dependency. For individuals, it reduces car engine wear and conditions that contribute to asthma and lung disease.
The creative team helps define ways that arts and culture can contribute to Bordentown’s economic development, the environment and social justice.
While the silver certification was grounds for celebration, it isn’t cause for relaxation, according to Elliot-Shaw and Gallagher. They’re already planning actions for 2014, including the 5th annual green fair and a bike rodeo, which will focus on the safe use of bicycles as an alternative to automobile transport, and a recreational activity. The team is also planning an earth talk on home energy audits and conservation.
“We expect to tailor this event to the local community with tips on how to green an older home, given that many of the houses in Bordentown City are older and maintain an historic character,” Gallagher said.
Other possibilities for 2014 include a community garden, a mayor’s wellness campaign and trail clean ups. The team will continue working on its creative assets inventory and, and will continue to support the Clara Barton school garden.
The Green Team is an all-volunteer subcommittee of the Bordentown City Environmental Commission, and welcomes new members. Meetings are held the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at Carslake Community Center. On the web: bcec.us. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.