BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ  - Have you filled out the Green Community Challenge Pledge yet? 

Councilman Mike D'Acquila said the Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission (BHEC)  needs 305 pledges filed to receive a Sustainable Jersey  Silver-level Certification. When Tuesday's Council meeting began, only 105 pledges had been received, he said.

That number was higher by the end of the meeting as many residents picked up a copy of the pledge forms from the front table and filled them out before leaving for home. "We need everybody's help," he said, explaining that the certification "helps us get grants" for various green projects in town. 

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The form can be found on the internet here,  and  submitted electronically, or residents 18 and older may pick up a form at Town Hall, 29 Park Ave.

This is only one of several initiatives being undertaken by the Environmental Commission in its quest for another  Sustainable Silver Certification. "Not many communities have the Silver Certification," D'Acquila said.

 Previously Environmental Commissioner Kinan Tadmori said, “We know that many residents support the environment by recycling plastic and paper, composting, and other activities. We want to challenge them to do more and document the actions they already do by asking them to take a short survey, pledging their support."

The BHEC wants to know that residents are committed to protecting the environment and filling out the form demonstrates that commitment. 

 "You don’t have to pledge to take every action, but we are counting on you to follow through with pledges you do make," said Tadmori. 

Tadmori, a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Biology and minor Environmental Policy is also a Rutgers Environmental Steward, has been involved with the BHEC since December 2015. 

Since being involved with the BHEC, Tadmori has seen the successful use of a grant received from PSE&G via Sustainable Jersey for rain gardens, which involved a rain garden education workshop with a high turnout and some residents were able to install rain gardens at their homes and receive a rebate.

Columbia Middle School and Governor Livingston also installed rain gardens with the help of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. "I have also seen the successful improvements to the plant bed in Peppertown Park, and there has been good progress made towards the planning of a community garden," said Tadmori. 

By obtaining The Sustainable Jersey Silver Certification, BHEC would receive priority in applying for grants that could potentially go towards a variety of projects to make Berkeley Heights more sustainable that include projects addressing issues from renewable energy and green building design, waste reduction, a sustainable master plan, water conservation, natural resources management, energy management, and transportation issues. Most projects also include public outreach campaigns and many have involved school children and community organizations, according to the Sustainable Jersey Website. 

"For example, we could use grant money to fund the building of a community garden that would allow residents to grow their own produce right here in town. Or it could be used towards retrofitting municipal buildings to be more energy efficient," said Tadmori. 

Tadmori provided the following ways residents can participate in being environmentally aware:

    •    Residents can do their part to reduce stormwater runoff on their property (such as installing rain gardens or rain barrels) 

    •    Reducing their food waste by composting

    •    Planting trees on their property

    •    Not washing their cars at home

    •    Or committing to any of the actions mentioned in the pledge

In the future, the BHEC plans to show educational environmental movies, and will be posting more environmental tips on their Facebook page

Sustainable Jersey is a nonprofit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs.  By supporting community efforts to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and improve environmental equity, Sustainable Jersey is empowering communities to build a better world for future generations.  You can find more information at www.sustainablejersey.com.  

The Berkeley Heights Environmental Commission was established to protect, develop or use natural resources, including water resources, located within the Township. The Environmental Commission is an advisory group with the responsibility to recommend plans and programs to the Planning Board for the development and use of open lands and wetlands. All the members volunteer their time on a variety of projects and tasks.