Verona, West Orange receive Sustainable Jersey grants

EWING, NJ — Sustainable Jersey announced May 14 the 31 New Jersey municipalities selected to receive a Sustainable Jersey grant funded by the PSEG Foundation. Five $20,000 grants, six $10,000 grants and 20 $2,000 grants were distributed to municipalities in 14 New Jersey counties. Verona won a $10,000 grant and West Orange won a $2,000 grant.

The grant awards will fund a range of projects including green infrastructure, food waste composting education, single-use plastic reduction campaigns, community gardens, a farmers market, environmental resource inventories, a diversity discussion series, green team capacity building and more.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these grants will strengthen our communities and build the groundwork for finding solutions to the sustainability concerns that are reaching a crisis point,” Sustainable Jersey Executive Director Randall Solomon said. He extended his congratulations to all of the towns that received grants. “By making preparations today to ensure our future well-being, we strengthen our communities and help alleviate future disasters.”

The PSEG Foundation has contributed $2.2 million in funding to the Sustainable Jersey grants program for municipalities and schools.

“The PSEG Foundation is committed to helping build sustainable and thriving communities by empowering and investing in the people, environment and infrastructure of the communities we serve, embodying our mission to help build better places to live and work,” said Rick Thigpen, senior vice president of corporate citizenship at PSEG and chairman of the PSEG Foundation. “Supporting Sustainable Jersey and local municipalities as they build sustainability programs puts resources where they’re needed to positively impact the environment and local communities, having a lasting impact on neighborhoods throughout New Jersey.”

Proposals were evaluated by an independent Blue-Ribbon Selection Committee. The Sustainable Jersey grants are intended to help municipalities make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey certification.

Verona won $10,000 for a community garden for all. The township will work with Eagle Scouts to create a handicapped-accessible community garden that will provide opportunities for residents to grow food, spend time outside, be physically active and get to know their neighbors. Plots will also be available for local restaurants interested in the farm-to-table movement, food pantries, seniors, students, nonprofit groups, residents from the surrounding towns and more.

“For several years now a community garden has been a project on paper that many residents have been excited about,” Verona Mayor Jack McEvoy said. “Residents in condominiums, townhomes and apartments, and still hundreds of others that don’t have space or sunlight on their property have expressed interest in participating and contributing to it. Startup costs range from $15,000 to $20,000 and therefore this grant will kickstart site excavation, fencing and construction of raised beds in order to be prepared for next spring’s planting season. The township of Verona is so thankful for Sustainable Jersey’s grant and the PSEG Foundation’s generosity. On behalf of the township of Verona, we thank you!”

West Orange received $2,000 for artificial floating islands. The township will work with students from local schools to construct artificial floating islands on three local waterways. These structures are constructed using recycled and reused materials and allow the growth of aquatic vegetation that helps improve water quality.

“The Sustainable Jersey grant for the artificial floating islands will play an important role in West Orange,” West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said. “Plant life will be permitted to grow their roots deep on three small ponds with deep roots in township history. These floating islands will add beauty and help us fulfill our role as responsible stewards of the environment.”

“The West Orange Public Schools are so excited and appreciative to have been a part of the receipt of this grant in partnership with the Sustainable Jersey for Schools and the municipal government’s Sustainable Jersey for the township of West Orange,” West Orange Superintendent of Schools Scott Cascone said. “The artificial floating islands project presents a myriad of innovative learning opportunities from science, to art, to intergenerational programming. I can’t wait to see this grant put into motion.”