Note: I am honored to present a guest blog post by MBA student Nicole Pamani. Nicole's post was graciously sent to me by Kristina Kohl, Faculty at Bard MBA in Sustainability, author of "Becoming a Sustainable Organization" and a speaker at Boston University's upcoming Project Management in Practice (PMiP) conference.
...and here is her guest post...
Sustainable Jersey City Hosts Certificate Program In Urban Sustainability
Sustainable Jersey City (SJC), a nonprofit organization, was started in 2011 by Debra Italiano and a small group of project managers local to Jersey City. Originally launched as a modest education organization, SJC has grown over time into a robust virtual community green team hub for volunteers and businesses to come together and build a more sustainable and resilient place to live and work for the City of Jersey City.
“People understood that although sustainability could be very abstract, it could also be a very personal experience used to design your life and workplace,” said Italiano. “However, when we started, folks didn’t understand the systems perspective - that all these various systems – buildings, transportation, waste, green infrastructure, social networks, governance, economics - are all inter-connected and decisions have cascading consequences. One of our primary goals is to teach systems thinking and how it relates to sustainability and resiliency planning, and ultimately to the quality of our lives.”
The organization focuses on engaging individuals, neighborhood associations, and other organizations in direct outreach programs as well as facilitating volunteer-based community projects on topics such as plastic & materials recycling, composting, community solar, energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and urban forestry. Once a project team has been formed, SJC guides the team to document the steps taken so that the project can be replicated across Jersey City. In doing so, SJC effectively converts volunteers into local sustainability champions and proactive environmental stewards.
Image Source: Sustainable Jersey City
Most recently, the organization kicked off its seventh annual flagship program, SJC's Certificate Program In Urban Sustainability. The objectives of the program are to give local activists an opportunity to take a deep dive into the program’s climate action topics – Emissions, Green Infrastructure, and Waste Streams. The program extends for 10 consecutive Monday evenings each spring and is taught by a team of volunteer industry, academic, and NGO experts. Participants gain insights into key drivers that have been impacting their communities and workplaces. Additionally, participants are trained in strategic project management skills and the use of simple tools that can be applied to the programs and projects that they are planning in real time. The goal of the immersion course is to provide a working knowledge of sustainability, resiliency, and adaptive management. Most importantly, the program generates actionable project plan ideas and individuals who are more effective leaders that can drive change in their respective communities.
“People initially signed up to take the Certificate Program to pursue their own agendas, as either a local organizer, a local community group board member, a neighborhood resident who is interacting with a city official, or a business executive that wants to get employees involved in community activities,” said Italiano. “This program transforms their understanding of what’s happening on the ground by offering alternative systems insights into issues related to the projects that are described to us. It’s not unusual for folks to actually have a paradigm shift while taking the course as regards their views. For example, people with a high-level understanding of a sustainability concept were missing stakeholder perspectives, or in reverse, folks with a deep understanding of what was happening in their immediate ‘backyard’ were missing the big picture, so people come out of our course with a more wholistic understanding of how to approach matters.”
- Learning successful project planning concepts & wholistic systems thinking
- Understanding the sources and impacts of GHG emissions and reduction opportunities
- Exploring green Infrastructure projects from multiple perspectives (both citizen led design install project opportunities & developer focused projects including regulatory, i.e., state/local government, etc.)
- Navigating the challenges of residential and municipal waste (organic & non-organic including local and state frameworks for solid waste management, regulatory and legislative updates)
- Adopting a Project Implementation Framework which can be used in personal, professional, or community contexts
Image Source: Sustainable Jersey City
The 2020 Certificate Program happened to launch at the time of year when the City of Jersey City was about to finalize its Climate Action Plan (CAP), which has been put on a temporary hold in light of COVID-19. The CAP’s intent targets 80% emissions reduction by 2050 across Building Energy, Transportation, and Waste sectors reflected in the City’s GHG 2016 Benchmark Inventory Report. As part of the CAP development process, recommendations for priority actions were presented to a Steering Committee (and the public via a survey) by four working groups representing those sectors, plus an Equity working group to moderate consideration of the impact of action recommendations on the low and moderate income (LMI) sector. SJC had seven of its Core Team Members participating in this process and there were a total of 56 Action Items recommended by the working groups for the City of Jersey City to incorporate into the CAP.
Although Jersey City’s government has its own Sustainability Office, SJC’s role as an educational outreach, advocacy, and innovative demonstration projects organization has remained autonomous. Currently, SJC is seeking to roll up its series of demonstration projects and program activities into campaigns that support the Jersey City CAP, consistent with the work the organization has been doing for years. The organization feels that the time has come to scale up its grassroots efforts and for community networks to engage more widely in local-meets-regional sustainability actions.
“Climate change is upon us and as I shared at last week’s jointly sponsored Solve Climate By 2030, with the Center for Sustainability at Ramapo College of NJ, Sustainable JC and the Bard Center For Environmental Policy, accelerating municipal action plans can lead the way to regional change and unlock state level inertia, creating mandates for change sooner than later,” said Italiano.
SJC’s ongoing work and their Certificate Program touch on six major Sustainable Development Goals, as defined by the United Nations:
- [#4] Quality Education - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- [#7] Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- [#9] Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- [#11] Sustainable Cities and Communities - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- [#12] Responsible Consumption and Production - Ensure sustainable consumption and production partners
- [#13} Climate Action – Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Image Source: United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
By bringing together individuals, local business owners, and community leaders, SJC is using its platform and this certificate program to increase education on sustainability issues, train the next generation of sustainability leaders, and build more resilient communities.