Sustainable Jersey for Schools | Take Action, Earn Points, Get Certified!

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future, one school at a time.

The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education is a Task Force Member, Advisor and Service Provider to Sustainable Jersey for Schools, and we can assist you. We have selected the actions required that best suit our expertise and we stand ready to serve the NJ schools and districts seeking certification. We can help you earn up to 205 points towards your certification and more importantly, we will help prepare your administrators and teachers to educate for a sustainable future by inspiring educators and engaging students through meaningful content and learner-centered instruction.

The actions that we can assist with include: Student Learning, Learning Environment, Leadership & Planning and Innovation Projects. The full list of actions are available here. If we can be of service in any one of these four areas, please contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation with Jaimie Cloud to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.

Learn more about the Cloud Institute's program for Sustainable Jersey Registered Schools and Districts:

Additional information and a downloadable flyer detailing your options for earning points with The Cloud Institute is available here:

Contact us today to schedule a 30 minute complimentary consultation to begin planning your school or districtict's EfS program.

Sustainability in Schools is Much More than “Going Green”

reposted from:, Published Feb 13, 2015

When most people think of the word “sustainability”, it conjures up images of “going green” and environmental programming. Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a new program for New Jersey school districts where the possibilities of saving money, making schools healthier, and preparing students for future sustainable jobs are the goal. Please Join host Ray Pinney as he discusses this exciting program with Donna Drewes, Co-Director of the Sustainability Institute.

Is Your School or District Ready for Sustainable Jersey Certification? Learn how the Cloud Institute can help you earn points and effect change in your school community. /sjforschools

Mobile Edible Wall Units: Growing Healthy Food and Minds

Repost from:

Original Post Date: January 2014

What do you get when you put an inspiring technology into the hands of high school students? You get real life applications of 21st Century Skills which can be translated into job skills in industries related to agriculture and the sciences.

The Mobile Edible Wall Unit, better known as a "MEWU", which is pronounced "mee woo", is the invention of Green Living Technologies, a Rochester, New York-based company founded by New Jersey native, George Irwin. These walls are increasingly being used in schools for indoor school gardens, in school greenhouses and are broadening the biology and science related learning taking place in high schools that have them.

We first heard about MEWUs from teacher Steve Ritz, who was the keynote speaker at the Green Schools Alliance Conference in New York a few years back. Steve was using the walls in his classroom at the time at Discovery High School in the Bronx. His students were keenly interested in the hands-on applications the walls provided and were seeing first hand what the technological applications were for growing plants and food. Fast forward to 2014 and some of these same students continue to be hired to work on professional job sites, using the skills they gained while incorporating Green Living Technologies' educational programs into their day to day class instruction.

Here in New Jersey, the first school to purchase a MEWU was Monroe Township High School, where Nancy Mitrocsak, the food service director for the district, learned about the walls through the New Jersey Farm to School Network and went on a mission to find funding to bring them to the high school. With the support of District Supervisor of Sciences and Social Studies, Bonnie Burke-Casaletto, the school incorporated the walls into their expanded greenhouse program and teacher Christian Jessop and his students have been using them ever since. In a recent email exchange, the team updated us on their progress, "As a quick and exciting update-we're collaborating with Helen in our Food Service department to harvest a complete wall of basil! It looks and smells wonderful and Mr. Jessop has done much under tough weather conditions during our holiday break to keep our student-created growth projects thriving on-site. Things are green and flourishing."

Meanwhile, at South Hunterdon High School in Tiffany Morey's Floral Design Class, FFA (Future Farmers of America) student Mitchell Haug contributed the following report about the use of a MEWU with fellow students Charles McDaniel, Patrick Charles, Collin Leary, and Isaiah Jones.

"Ever since we unloaded the Green Wall that was loaned to us by New Jersey Farm To School on December 6th and set it up in our Ag Shop, it's been nothing but good times. From packing the boxes with soil to seeding, watering, and overcoming a few engineering challenges, the Wall has provided us with a challenging yet rewarding learning experience.

As the five guys in the floral design class, we weren't always as excited when it came to putting together centerpieces or assembling corsages and boutonnieres, but we did all share a passion for agriculture. When our advisor came to us with the offer that we could use class time to grow and take care of plants in an innovative way, we were thrilled. It wasn't long before we were putting together the wall and loading it up with soil.

Since then we have seen promising results. While there were some early issues with a water recycling system and soil erosion, these issues have since been resolved and we have begun to see germination and the beginnings of life. We currently have six varieties of lettuce planted that we plan to use in the school's cafeteria and culinary classes. We look forward to continuing with the wall and seeing what we can produce!"

To learn more about the Mobile Edible Wall Unit, click here. Green Living Technologies and the New Jersey Farm to School Network are collaborating on a program to bring more MEWUs into New Jersey schools. If your school or district is interested in learning more, please email us at and put MEWU in the subject line.

The Black Run Preserve - A Suburban Pinelands Oasis

Repost from:
Original Post Date: September 26, 2013

Unbeknown to most area residents, just two miles from the The Promenade retail complex in Marlton lies over 1000 acres of undeveloped land called the Black Run Preserve. An isolated fragment of the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Black Run is an amazingly diverse and wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of fast-paced suburban life that lies on its doorstep.  Though not contiguous with the rest of the Pinelands National Reserve, Evesham Township’s Black Run Preserve boasts a pristine ecosystem accessible to thousands of nearby residents.  

Black Run gets its name from the stream which originates in the Preserve, fed by an underground aquifer of pristine-quality water. Its protected status means this lush, forested watershed is abundant with native species – including at least twenty rare and endangered plants. The absence of urban development has prevented pollution and invasive species from leaving their footprint here, providing an unspoilt natural ecosystem that feels as remote as anyplace along the East coast.

On a recent guided hike led by John Volpa – founder of Friends of the Black Run Preserve – we saw the impressive biodiversity native to the area.  A lush, open grassland savanna is a verdant, exotic landscape reminiscent of the Florida Everglades. Nearby, wild blueberries can be eaten right off the bush. Black Run also boasts rare or endangered hawks, tree frogs, turtles, salamanders and the barred owl. Even in the mid-summer heat, the shady trails of soft, moist peat made for an easy, comfortable hike.

The public may use Black Run for hiking, cross-country skiing, biking and bird-watching, as there are several miles of trails which give access to various parts of the Preserve. The area also provides a unique, hands-on educational opportunity for local schools, who have conducted wildlife monitoring programs here. The Pinelands Preservation Alliance has also held the Black Run Summer Teacher Institute, where local educators and students learned about the ecology of the Preserve from Pine Barrens experts.  

As a newly-emerging public open green space, Black Run also faces some challenges. There is an initiative to establish designated parking areas, as for now users must park alongside the road near one of the trailheads. There are also plans to provide bathrooms as well as to improve trails. Unfortunately, periodic clean-up is also needed for debris left behind by illegal dumping. However, as more people learn about the Preserve, there will be more incentive to increase its accessibility and usability.

You can help support Friends of the Black Run Preserve by becoming a member or volunteering for Preserve maintenance and improvement projects, and also by getting out and seeing this amazing natural treasure for yourself. An excellent five-minute promotional video provides an overview of the Preserve’s history and uniqueness. The public is invited to attend the Black Run Preserve Visioning Event on Wednesday, October 23 at 7:00pm at the Evans Elementary School in Evesham Township, where the public can give their inputto help develop a long-range Master Plan for the Preserve.

So take a step back from it all, and step into the magical world of the Black Run Preserve.

Author: Paul Hanley is a long-time Cherry Hill resident, New Jersey Learner, freelance writer and Environmental Science professor at the Community College of Philadelphia.

Sustainable Jersey and The New Jersey Learns Program

Repost from:
Original Post Date: February 15th, 2010

By Winnie Fatton of Sustainable Jersey

When I first heard about NJ Learns, it was an exciting, untried idea that the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation was supporting. Teams of educators, admins, parents, municipal representatives, and the general public – anyone who was committed to Educating for Sustainability (EfS) – were invited to apply for the program. I was working on “Green Jobs for NJ,” which was a pilot project to infuse EfS into the curricula of Career and Technical Schools. I brought 2 teachers to the first training session – one from the Mercer County Vocational Technical School District and one from Essex County Vocational Technical School District. I felt that it would be a great opportunity to learn from a “master” and to introduce classroom teachers to what I believe should be one of the most important educational themes in our schools.

I believe that sustainability is a theme which offers teachers from almost any discipline a way to get students involved with issues that are significant and relevant to their daily lives and to their future career choices. At career and technical schools, for example, EfS could be incorporated into the construction and HVAC trades (think green, high performance buildings), landscaping (management of stormwater run-off, recapture/reuse of wastewater, xeriscaping and other low maintenance plantings), culinary arts (school gardens, safe food/local food, composting), automotive (hydrogen fuel cells, hybrid cars), or a multitude of other career clusters. These are the jobs of the future.

But green jobs aren’t the only reason to think about sustainability; there are so many other linkages to science, math, English, history, even graphic arts. It takes some creativity, but teachers can develop lessons that relate real time/real world issues to what students are studying. Equally important, teachers can help foster the creative thinking we will need to come up with the solutions to these major challenges.

Now, in my work with the Sustainable Jersey program – a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to go green, control costs and save money, and take steps to sustain their quality of life over the long term – I have the ability to work with a lot of different audiences. Sustainable Jersey offers over 64 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 communication outreach and education. All of the actions in the program are supported by a series of tools which are available on the Sustainable Jersey website, as well as through training programs and workshops. Each action or “tool” is fully resourced and includes a description of the action: who should be involved, how much it will cost, how long it will take, as well as resources for helping municipalities to complete it.

My initial focus was on helping to develop “tools” which relate to the “education” sector – and in the second round of the program, Sustainable Jersey will be offering information about “Education for Sustainability” as well as “School Based Energy Conservation Programs.” The School Based Energy Conservation Programs focus on helping students, teachers and all school staff members to make behavioral changes, which can reduce energy consumption. Some participating schools have even reduced their energy bills by almost 20% through behavior modification alone. And the Education for Sustainability tool offers ideas and resources for teaching about sustainability, including, of course, the NJ Learns program.

Over 250 communities in NJ have signed up to become certified through the Sustainable Jersey program since its inception in February, 2009. Sustainable Jersey and NJ Learns offer opportunities for communities to share inspire and learn from one another as we all work together toward a sustainable future. By giving people an understanding of why it is important to be sustainable, as well as the tools we need to be a more sustainable society, we have begun to create a process that will foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve success. The knowledge that there are so many great people out there working toward a sustainable future is very gratifying, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.

* * *

New Jersey Learns introduces teachers and community leaders to Education for Sustainability. Education for Sustainability (EfS) is a whole system approach to schools and communities learning together for a sustainable future and includes the Cloud Institute’s EfS Core Content Standards. The program brings community-based teams to participate in one year of introductory training, implementation, coaching and assessment activities. Want to participate? 2013-14 NJ Learns applications are due March 15th. Apply now.

We Are All In This Together, by Dr. Moira N. Wilkinson

You’ve likely heard that phrase before; it’s a common enough idea with lots of variations on the theme: “All for one and one for all!” “The more the merrier!” to name just a couple. We might get so used to hearing it that we tune out to its full significance.

It’s more than a sound bite or a fun thing to imagine. It is, in fact, a Mental Model of Sustainability. I am totally on board with the goal and still stumble sometimes putting it into action consistently. I’m struck by how hard it is to retrain my brain to shift toward that new way of thinking. Even doing this work full-time, when push comes to shove, sometimes I revert to doing things on my own; which is ironic because it’s precisely when things get hardest that it’s MOST important to bring in your crew.

Inevitably, when the moment passes, I’m left with two conclusions: a) it’s not nearly as fun as it would have been if I’d been doing it with folks along the way, and b) the product would have looked different, and maybe better. Don’t get me wrong—I love the way my mind works and the creative things it thinks of – the thing is I like the way ALL minds work and that each comes up with different responses. So I'm always left wondering, “what if….” How much more creative and win-win the product (insights and responses to the same issue) might have been with more fabulous minds working on it with me? We know that asking different questions and activating the creative process are two good strategies for shifting mental models, so I’ll pose the same questions to you that I ask myself in this situation. Think about them. See what YOU come up with!

What would it mean to our work if we took it to heart that we are all in this together—truly? In a world where we are all in this together there is no “they” only “we.” If we act on the principle of being in this together, how differently would we draw on the support and resources that we offer each other in the NJ Learns Community? What would change in the way we approach the people we want to influence—especially those we seem most UNlike or with whom we disagree the most? (Yes, THAT person.) How would this change your life, or the face of the community you live in, now and in the future?

We’re all still learning how to put this into action and there’s no single correct way to do it. Everyone’s got a good story about how this goes for them, the highs and lows. Check out the story below to get a window into the work of our Hillsborough team to see how they’re working together to build a broad foundation in their town.

In the last four years, sustainability has become a part of everyday language for more and more people. There is more mainstream information and acceptance about the causes of unsustainability, and more resources, like Sustainable Jersey, to help individuals and communities learn about behavior changes that contribute to sustainability. As a result, over the years, the number of applicants to the NJ Learns program has increased three-fold, and the quality of applicants has improved notably. Applicants are clearer in their motivation for doing this work, have diversified teams, and are more organized in their ability to take strategic action toward their visions.

The Hillsborough team is an example of that. Their five person team is comprised of two self-identified “concerned residents” (one of whom is a parent of school-aged children), a School Board Member, a business person, and a public school teacher. This mixed team is an example of how the Keystone Year seeds change on an organizational level by bringing individuals and teams from schools and communities to learn and change together for the shared goal of sustainability. They joined NJ Learns for several reasons, among them that they have strong ties with Sustainable Jersey and had heard Winnie Fatton from Sustainable Jersey talk about the transformational changes that can occur after a team experiences the NJ Learns program.

According to Bill Dondiego, the team’s vision was always about “awareness and support.” At the outset of the Keystone Year, the team had their sights set on systemic change in the town, working together to expand people’s understanding of sustainability to include an awareness that thinking, learning, and education have a role in the shift toward sustainability. Children and young people are pivotal players in this vision. As Bill put it, the “Start young, so they know and respect the Commons. If they respect the Commons, they’ll respect each other.” To that end, each team member is working from their particular place in the system to create conditions for Hillsborough residents of all ages and in all sectors of the city—government, schools, business, etc—to make the connections between sustainability and learning together.

He’s convinced that if they can increase awareness and provide support, “the whole state can move the needle forward. We get to follow in the footsteps of others who went before us and be the next in line to grow this. It’s going to take knowledge, truth, and integrity to achieve our long-term mission.”

This “we are all in this together” orientation, fundamental to EfS, shows up in the team’s actions to make connections across sectors within their town and beyond

Hillsborough’s borders, too, as evidenced by the range of actions below:

  • In town, Bill is applying to be on the energy council in the hopes of creating a nexus between agencies.
  • Other members of the team are participating in the Citizens’ Campaign class for Citizen Legislators to parlay EfS more effectively in the government sector.
  • At the same time, the team recently organized the Central Jersey Green Teams Best Practices Conference focusing on energy, transport, and recycling, and which was attended by about 65 people from more than ten municipalities.
  • They applied for, and won, a “Green Maps” grant with Montgomery, Princeton, and Lawrence to map sustainability along that corridor.
  • They have taken on an informal mentorship role with NJ Learns team from Jersey City, sharing their resources with the relatively less wealthy city to the north.

Networks for Sustainable Action

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.
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