Sustainable State of the State

Sustainable Jersey has recently released the 2015 New Jersey Sustainable State of the State Report. The report includes comprehensive assessments, indicators and goals for creating a more sustainable state in which to live, work and play.

Since 2009, 423 municipalities and 300 school districts in New Jersey have committed to driving change towards a sustainable state. Working towards the goal of Sustainable Jersey certification, they have implemented over 7,000 ‘best practice’ actions.

The report is a first and important step towards outlining, and then measuring, the impact of the Sustainable Jersey program on our state. The goal of this report is to create a vision that inspires, track our progress, and guide the creation of future standards and actions that will result in a sustainable state with a global impact.

This report is based on a two-year study that included copious research, consultation with experts in the fields and input from New Jersey stakeholders. Sustainable Jersey Task Forces were created to identify the big issues, which they call dimensions. Each dimension was then thoroughly researched to determine what data is available to use as indicators of progress, what is currently being done, and what needs to be done to achieve sustainability. Goals were established and further assessed based on the indicators and all relevant data. The report focuses on the following 14 dimensions:

  • Water

  • Agriculture and soils

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services

  • Air Quality

  • Health

  • Social capital

  • Education and human development

  • Governance

  • Economy

  • Housing

  • Transportation

  • Development patterns

  • Energy

  • Waste

Furthermore, Sustainable Jersey aims to clarify and define those assets on which society relies and we need to sustain. Using the word “capital,” a financial term, helps us understand that to be sustainable our basic activities must nurture our capital (assets), not diminish them. The following forms of capital provide a basis for defining sustainability: physical, social, human, political, economic and natural. An additional category, system metabolism, was created to track the flow of energy and waste as these assets change.

With these assets defined, Sustainable Jersey was able to take a thorough approach to developing 57 goals towards sustainability.

What’s more, the report takes a look at indicators of overall system health as well as the cross-cutting themes of climate change and equity. These go hand-in-hand with many of the dimensions mentioned above, so it is important to include the reduction of gas emissions and other factors that affect our climate.

The findings were as expected—New Jersey is doing exceptionally well in certain areas and requires more work in others. Sustainable Jersey further learned that there is a lack of data to really track some of the goals that have been developed, while some goals are simply not measurable. However, this report does start the conversation around these important issues in our state. It serves to get the community thinking about how to build a sustainable future based on what it values. Sustainable Jersey did an excellent job in gathering, analyzing, and presenting this data—a monumental task. They are to be commended for their efforts towards sustaining New Jersey.

A summary of the report (Volume I) and a full version of the technical report (Volume II) can be found on Sustainable Jersey’s website. Take a look at the goals and indicators to see how the state is doing in each area and how you can help.