IN PURSUIT OF SUSTAINABILITY

rb-green-teamAlan Placer, left, and Andres Simonson are two of the faces behind Red Bank’s effort to reduce adverse impacts on the natural environment.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Before it even meets for the first time, Red Bank’s newest subcommittee has already chipped away at its goal.

Made up of volunteer residents, business owners and local officials, the Environmental Commission‘s Green Team was formed a couple months ago in a quest to have Red Bank join dozens of other towns in the state working toward the environmentally friendly, incentive-based municipal certification program Sustainable Jersey.

When it holds its first meeting next month, the Green Team plans to set the wheels in motion to earn the certification by June, said member Andres Simonson, who is also the Environmental Commission chairman.

Simonson says getting certified by the summer isn’t such a lofty goal, considering the borough already has many of the program’s requirements in place. A town must earn 100 points to receive the certification, which in turn opens opportunities for grant money and other help from the state, not to mention the obvious benefits of reducing the borough government’s operating costs.

“We’re probably close to 100 points already,” Simonson said, pointing out that the Environmental Commission’s participation in borough events and Red Bank’s various recycling programs qualify for points.

But the team’s objective, Simonson said, is to go well beyond the initial certification and make Red Bank an all-around more sustainable community, from an economic, environmental and social standpoint.

“You want to have those three houses in order,” he said. “The Green Team is heavily involved in the environmental aspect, but we have some people who are on top of the other aspects.”

They include Nancy Adams, executive director of downtown promotional agency RiverCenter, and assistant borough administrator Gary Watson, to provide their perspective on those other components. Along with Simonson, who works as an environmental consultant, there’s Alan Placer, who knows a thing or two about using alternative energy to lower — or even eliminate — operating costs.  The co-owner of Hobbymasters doesn’t pay an electric bill thanks to the 100+ solar panels he’s got on the roof of his White Street shop.

In his opinion, the formation of the team is a step toward a cleaner, cheaper future for Red Bank, and modeling borough hall after Hobbymasters could be a start.

“There’s no reason that any borough roof couldn’t do the same,” said Placer, who lives in Fair Haven.

The trick to making any of the subcommittee’s ideas work is to have the support of the public and the governing body, Simonson said.

“We have to sell to the council,” he said. “We have to show that (our ideas) are a net economic gain off their bottom line.”

Simonson said as time goes on, the powers behind Sustainable Jersey will continue to raise the bar for communities to achieve new goals. And Red Bank’s Green Team will chase those goals for as long as it can, he said, in hopes that eventually there will be a new, all-encompassing sustainable culture in town.

He reverted back to the environmental, social and economic aspects to describe that long-term vision.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. Once you achieve those three pillars, you’re on your way to being sustainable,” he said.

The Green Team’s first meeting will be held at 7p January 12 in the council chambers at borough hall.