Last year, Montclair rolled out a new program, in partnership with Montclair State University, to encourage local businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices.
This year, the partners hope that the Green Business Program will expand, with more businesses joining.
The Green Business Program is one of several projects that Montclair has carried out in order to achieve bronze certification status with Sustainable Jersey; other sustainable projects have included installing charging stations for electric vehicles, green energy policies for all municipal buildings and a farmer’s market voucher program for low-income residents.
Last spring, Environmental Affairs Director Gray Russell had a meeting with Amy Tuininga, director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University. They discussed ways to get the center’s students involved with the township’s green initiatives, and the Green Business program was one outcome of that discussion, Russell told the Montclair Local earlier this month.
The Environmental Affairs office and the students assembled a checklist of action items that businesses could meet in order to be certified as a green business. For example, a restaurant would have to show that it was offering healthy options on the menu. Other suggested actions include installing low-flow toilets and motion-sensitive faucets in the restrooms, using biodegradable plastics and recycled paper for packaging and using hybrid or electric vehicles. The checklist also encourages offering job training or apprenticeships for local employees and buying supplies and products from local and regional suppliers.
Businesses that achieve certification also receive a redbud leaf decal, designed by the students, to display in their windows. Additionally, businesses have to identify goals for improvement, do an assessment of their green practices at work and submit an annual report to the township.
The institute put out a call last spring for students interested in working with the township on the green business program. Tuininga said that Russell and a representative from the state Department of Environmental Protection came in to meet with the students and to do some training. Of the 12 students who participated in the first round of training, eight signed up to go around to the businesses, and of those eight, a core group of six has been especially involved, she said, adding that having the students explain the Green Business Program made it easier for business owners to seek certification, but that business owners were still expected to do their share of the work on the certification process.
Currently 21 businesses participate in the Green Business Program. Of those, at least four are also listed on New Jersey’s Sustainable Business Registry, which is the state-level equivalent of Montclair’s program.
Most of the businesses now participating in Montclair’s program are concentrated around the Bloomfield Avenue corridor, Watchung Plaza, Walnut Street and Valley Road.
Tuininga told the Montclair Local on Wednesday, Feb. 15, that the township, the Institute for Sustainability Studies and the students were hoping to start three new phases of the project within the next few weeks. One is to make a follow-up visit to the businesses that are already on the list and see how they are doing. The second is to visit businesses that for whatever reason had not been able to sign up in the first round. She also said that the Institute for Sustainability Studies is starting to work with Verona Township, which is setting up its own green business registry.
“We’re hoping this might branch out to other towns that don’t have an academic institution,” she said.