Montclair and the Environment

Frank Leslie, Director ACEEThe Township of Montclair is a model for sustainable communities. This means that economic responsibility, environmental stewardship, and equitable social justice are taken into account for municipal operations, purchasing, and decision-making.

A sustainable society is one in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The most serious environmental issues are global in nature, but the actions required to solve many problems take place on a local level. Hence the expression, “Think globally, act locally”.

Historically, we have preserved our beautiful green spaces, parks, public gardens and magnificent trees for more than a century.

In 1978 Montclair was the first municipality in the state to set-up a community recycling program, almost a decade before the 1987 Mandatory Recycling Act made recycling the law in New Jersey. Thanks to Montclair’s life-long resident and environmental activist Jean Clark, recycling programs spread throughout the state and New Jersey remains a national leader for curbside recycling collections and public participation.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1993 Montclair was one of just three townships in all of northern NJ to host a Farmers' Market in our downtown business area, bringing fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce to residents while preserving family farms in the Garden State and shortening the distance from fields to tables. There are now over 100 such markets. We are proud to have spearheaded the locally-sourced, fresh food movement a quarter-century ago - we were local before there was "local". The Montclair Farmers' Market remains a popular meeting place for hundreds of residents, visitors, families and friends who enjoy not only the healthy, tasty foods, but also a tangible sense of community due to the presence of the growers, chef-prepared food tastings, non-profit display tables, and musical entertainment.

In 2002 the Montclair Environmental Commission (www.mtcenv.com) created The Sustainable Montclair Planning Guide. For this innovative “how-to” document and the subsequent Council Resolution of Support they were awarded the 2003 Environmental Achievement Award by the Association of N.J. Environmental Commissions (ANJEC).

Overwhelmingly, the world's scientists, national governments, and business leaders agree that the rising accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is impacting the global climate. Scientists and urban planners anticipate that climate change will detrimentally affect cities and many suburban areas. Local governments, therefore, have to begin pro-actively working to avoid the long-term local risks of climate change.

Montclair has already taken steps to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. In 2002, six alternative fuel vehicles were acquired for the Parking Enforcement and the Health Department. Running on compressed natural gas (CNG), these are Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (SULEVs), using a domestic fuel that virtually eliminates particulate pollution and reduces our CO2 footprint.

Since then, we have added hybrid vehicles to our fleet for increased efficiency, and for one year we switched our entire diesel fleet of trucks and off-road equipment to B20 Biodiesel. Biodiesel is a non-petroleum, vegetable-based fuel that reduces particulates and greenhouse gas emissions.     

In 2004 all municipal traffic lights were upgraded to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), saving 90% of the energy needed and saving us about $10,000 per year.

Twice we have conducted comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades to our municipal buildings, reducing our monthly utility bills by over $100,000 annually, and slashing our energy use for electricity.

We are making Montclair a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly community, thanks to our working relationship with Bike & Walk Montclair. We were the first municipality in NJ to adopt a Complete Streets Program, ensuring that roadway improvements always consider all users including pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit, as well as cars. Essex County and many other towns and counties have followed our lead around the state.

For these and other initiatives, Montclair was honored in 2005 to be the first-ever recipient of the Municipal Clean Energy Leadership Award from the NJ BPU’s Clean Energy Program.

In 2010 we were honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be designated a Climate Showcase Community, enabling a grant to determine our Carbon Footprint and create a GHG Reduction Plan for the community.

For 15 years we have implemented a successful Backyard Composting Program. We sell low-cost home compost bins to residents, provide simple composting information, and frequently host our Compost GiveBack event in the fall. Our Environmental Affairs office also sells discounted Rain Barrels to homeowners year-round.

We are active participants in the innovative Sustainable Jersey Program (www.sustainablejersey.com); three times we have been certified as a Sustainable Community, each for a 3-year period.

Thanks to a Sustainable Jersey grant, Montclair installed the first networked series of public charging stations for pluggable electric vehicles: a pair in the Fullerton Parking Deck, and another pair in the Bellevue Avenue Parking Lot. Since then we added more in the Crescent Deck, and with several businesses offering on-site parking our town now hosts a dozen charging stations; no other town in the metropolitan area is such a center for the on-going transformation to pluggable electric vehicles.

We continue to look for and find ways to be more energy efficient and to reduce costs and energy use, to encourage recycling and waste prevention, to promote water conservation and stormwater protection, 

For more information, please call Montclair’s Environmental Affairs office at (973) 509-5721, or email grussell@montclairnjusa.org.