Networks for Sustainable Action

An interview with Winnie Fatton
New Jersey Learns

The New Jersey  Learns training has brought together 70 exceptional leaders representing 15 communities in New Jersey (including: Cherry Hill, West Milford, Elizabeth, Livingston, Far Hills, New Brunswick, Green Brook, Jersey City, Bayonne, Trenton and others).  As we initially embarked on this journey, the Cloud Institute and our partners set forth that we would open a program to community teams comprised of individuals who are interested in developing their community’s capacity to make the shift toward sustainability. By linking community efforts to K-12 Education for Sustainability we create a whole community learning environment for systemic change.

Our objectives have been to:

  • Inspire and prepare K-12 teachers and Higher Education faculty to educate for sustainability
  • Inspire and prepare community educators and leaders to educate for sustainability
  • Link schools with their communities as strategic partners for sustainability

We are pleased that we have a growing number of leaders who are prepared and equipped to educate for sustainability in their communities and schools. We are seeing a substantial increase in the capacity of our New Jersey network of schools and communities to work together in elegant, seamless, and sustained collaboration.  Winnie Fatton, has been a part of our New Jersey Learns training for two years.

I firmly believe in the importance of creating more sustainable communities, and having been a teacher for many years, I could not imagine trying to achieve this goal without involving the schools and the students!  Having been a participant in the Cloud Institute’s NJ LEARNS program in its initial year 2008 and in 2009, I was aware of the work that was being done in developing curricula, and working with schools.  Jaimie Cloud was an inspiration – her work in this field is on the cutting edge.  MLUC@TCNJ’s community planner, Donna Drewes was another inspiration for me – she encouraged me to continue to stay involved with sustainability in this new arena.

On top of my work with the Cloud Institute’s New Jersey Learns program I am a Project Manager at MLUC@TCNJ – and am currently working on a program called Sustainable Jersey.  Previously, I worked on a project called “Green Jobs for NJ:  A Sustainable Career Track Initiative” whose goal was to infuse sustainability education into career and technical education programs.  Sustainable Jersey is a voluntary, statewide municipal certification program that encourages NJ municipalities to take actions to become more sustainable.  It involves over 13 different “actions” which municipalities can take to become more sustainable – from creating a Green Team to doing energy audits for municipal buildings and establishing the carbon footprint of the municipality, to doing community outreach and education – Sustainable Jersey is a municipal certification program which assists municipalities in their efforts to become sustainable through a series of tools which are available on the website:, as well as through training programs and workshops. Each action is a “tool” which is fully resourced and includes “Description of the Action” – who should be involved, how much will it cost, how long will it take and resources for helping municipalities to complete it.

I am most interested in assisting interested communities to make their goals and aspirations a reality.  I am certainly very interested and involved in the school programs, but I am also interested in the other aspects of sustainability which are addressed through Sustainable Jersey.  The program convened over 150 stakeholders as part of 15 taskforces to identify, brainstorm and create actions and tools that were measurable and achievable in terms of sustainability efforts. Volunteers brainstormed ideas around topics such as energy, natural resources, community outreach and education (see website for complete listing).  We asked for their input on actions that municipalities could take to become more sustainable.  We also felt that these actions should be able to be “resourced” so that we could help communities to move toward sustainability.  For the first round, we focused on actions that would be achievable by all municipalities.

It is exciting to be involved in this process of consensus building and see so many people volunteering their time to make our world more sustainable.

My initial involvement was as a member of the School Programs and Partnerships Taskforce, since that was directly related to the curricular framework that I was researching for the Green Jobs for NJ: Sustainable Career Track Initiative.  The resources that I compiled as part of that project were incorporated into the “tool” for Sustainable Jersey.  It was very exciting to see how many municipalities were interested in participating.  At the launch, we had Governor Corzine, the head of NJ DEP, Mark Mauriello, Jeanne Fox from NJ BPU, representatives from all of our funders, and many other dignitaries.  This was a landmark day for all of us who had been working for almost 2 years! We currently have over 200 municipalities in the program (which is about a third of all municipalities in the state of NJ).

Currently, MLUC@TCNJ is convening 7 (of the 15) different Taskforces for the second round of the Sustainable Jersey program:

  • Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation
  • Diversity, Equity and Social Justice
  • Food Systems
  • Human/Animal Interactions
  • Local Economies
  • School Programs and Partnerships
  • Sustainability Planning

A key lesson for a project like this is that networking is key!  The strength of the project is the partnership between the Mayors, the educational institutions, and state agencies and organizations.  By working together, we were able to accomplish more than any of us could have done individually.  Getting consensus from over 150 volunteers on the original 13 Taskforces was not an easy process, but having so many people take time to volunteer their input made the final program more robust.

Over 200 communities in NJ have signed up to become certified through the Sustainable Jersey program since its inception in Feb, 2009.  This is an amazing response, and shows that the state is ready for change!  We are hoping that communities will share, inspire and learn from one another as we all move toward a sustainable future.  People want to be more sustainable, and if we can give them tools and an understanding of why it is important to be sustainable, we can achieve a more sustainable society.  This is a process, and that if we collaborate and are patient, we can achieve our goals.  The knowledge that there are so many great people out there working toward a sustainable future is very gratifying.