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Sustainable Communities
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Environmental Capacity Based Planning
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sustainability_rings_image“Sustainability” or “Sustainable Development” has been defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” - The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development (The Brundtland Commission, 1987).

Sustainability has often been represented by the symbol on the right. Each ring represents one of the three systems that support our civilization: the economy, the environment, and our society. Each of these rings overlaps, i.e. influences, or is affected by, the other two. For a community to be sustainable, each of these systems must be healthy and in balance with the others.


Sustainable JerseyTM is a certification and incentive program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term.  Sustainable Jersey will have required and elective “actions” that municipalities can implement to receive the certification. The actions address issues such as global warming, pollution, biodiversity, buying locally, community outreach, green building, and sustainable agriculture.  Achieving the certification does not mean a municipality is "sustainable." Rather, it connotes that the municipality has taken the first significant step on a [long] journey towards sustainability.

Sustainable JerseyTM provides municipalities that enter the program with a comprehensive package of tools, guidance materials, training, and financial incentives to support and reward progress. Sustainable JerseyTM will provide direction and resources for municipalities to institute programs that address sustainability and help create green communities.

Sustainable JerseyTM is an initiative of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities’ Mayors’ Committee for a Green Future, the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey, the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute at Rutgers University, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the Rutgers Center for Green Building, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and a coalition of NJ non-profits, state agencies, and experts in the field.

For more information go to:


Sustainable Community Planning

Sustainable community planning entails designing various elements in a way that will meet the needs of the present in an equitable manner, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Although it is often expedient to plan for the present and near future, the State Development and Redevelopment Plan’s vision for New Jersey describes smart growth as sustainable growth that creates communities of enduring value.

All municipalities should begin their planning with a sustainability statement that outlines how the sustainability objectives underlie, relate to, and provide additional direction to the elements of their Master Plan.  Municipalities are strongly urged to compile their sustainability goals, objectives and actions into a Municipal Sustainability Statement. 

This document will serve as a foundation and blueprint for incorporating sustainability into all aspects of local governance.  Critical areas should include (where appropriate): energy management, greenhouse gas reduction, green design, water conservation, healthy regional agricultural systems, waste management, toxics reduction, sustainable economic development, mobility and access, and environmental education. This holistic approach to planning helps municipalities determine which policies and practices are most appropriate and suitable to local conditions and community vision.  Recommended actions may include, but are not limited to:

  • Performing greenhouse gas and energy audits
  • Create greenhouse gas reduction action plan
  • Maximizing energy conservation and efficiency
  • Using alternative and renewable energy uses
  • Requiring and promoting water conservation and use efficiency
  • Reducing auto-dependency
  • Green business: providing programs and incentives for sustainable business and business practices
  • Requiring or encouraging "green building" standards for municipal facilities and redevelopment areas, and encouraging green design for other private sector projects.
  • Institute programs to reduce use of and exposure to toxic chemicals, such as IPM, green procurement, diesel emissions reductions.
  • Encourage and provide incentives for the use alternative energy
  • Use of agricultural best management practices
  • Supporting regional agriculture
  • Adopting green purchasing policies
  • Improving local materials reduction, re-use and recycling programs.
  • Reduce public fleet energy use and air emissions via fleet management and alternative technologies
  • Providing public education and outreach to help residents incorporate sustainable practices into their homes and lifestyles.


DEP Guidance Documents

Looking for help?  The following documents include a guide to how to become a sustainable community, energy audits, green purchasing and a list of State financial resources that support sustainable communities.



Sustainable Communities in New Jersey

Find out what some NJ towns and one county are doing to become sustainable.  The profiles provide summary descriptions of each community's programs, plans, hurdles and keys to success. Click on the map/link below to view examples of sustainble communities in New Jersey

state of nj map Link to Sustainable Communities


Sustainable New Jersey Project

In 1995, a multi-year Sustainable State Project was started and culminated in a “report card” on the long-term trends that will enhance or degrade our quality of life and that of future generations. Originally released in 1999 by New Jersey Future, Living with the Future in Mind articulates the vision of a sustainable New Jersey with an efficient and vibrant economy, a healthy environment, and a just society. This report was updated in 2000 and 2004.




Sustainable Community Partners

Building partnerships is an important element of the program. Cooperation among key sectors, institutions serve to reinforce a commitment toward sustainability and environmental capacity based planning, promote sharing of expertise/experience, and help generate needed resources.


Sustainable Communities Around the World

United States


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Last Updated: June 5, 2015