Department of Sustainability
& Environmental Affairs
Many issues of sustainability and environmental health impact more than one department of local government. As a result, we've found that towns and villages that have an Office or Department of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, and/or a Chief Sustainability Officer who oversees the efforts of the town, are more likely to do better on a broad spectrum of issues than those without.
Many municipalities have citizen environmental commissions or committees, which provide a good starting point for action, but they are not a substitute for a dedicated office or staff person.
We strongly recommend that the Office or Department have both the responsibility and the authority to coordinate local governmental efforts, and to develop and maintain effective communications between residents and local decision makers, as well as with surrounding municipalities.
The Township of Montclair, NJ was the first municipality in the State of New Jersey to set up a recycling program, and one of the first to sponsor a farmers' market. Today, Environmental Affairs Coordinator Gray Russell oversees all of the town's efforts to be green, from biodiesel vehicles, to composting, to disposing of e-waste.
In 2007, the City of Knoxville, TN created a Energy & Sustainability Initiative that has helped make Knoxville a greener, more sustainable city. The Initiative is staffed by two full-time employees in the City’s Office of Sustainability, and supported by countless city staff and community partners who are committed to its success. Knoxville is among the top finalists for the 2017 C40 Cities Awards.