Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 31
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
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Princeton's Policy for the Ages: Sustainability Plan Moving Forward

Matthew Hersh

What started out as a nebulous concept sparked by some local activists, the notion of "sustainability" has since been adopted as major municipal policy that, some are hoping, will eventually transform the way the municipalities, schools, businesses, and even residents approach the economy, the environment, and society.

Sustainable Princeton, a campaign launched two years ago by a handful of members of the Princeton Environmental Commmission, has benefited in the last year from a $60,000 Building Livable Communities grant administered by the College of New Jersey's Municipal Land Use Center. As a result, a third of that grant has been used to contract with a Rutgers-based institute as part of a comprehensive effort to employ sustainable practices through education, physical development, and energy output, with the remaining money going toward education and implementation of a sustainable plan.

The sustainability concept largely centers on the notion of protecting current resources for future generations.

But that's just the start.

The Sustainable Princeton steering committee, which first met in June, will meet again today to approach the implementation of its initiative, with the idea of launching a series of public meetings this fall. The steering committee has representatives from the public and private sector, as well as institutional representation from Princeton University, Princeton HealthCare System, and the Princeton Pastor Association.

"The Princetons understood that sustainable development was an imperative, and something they had to focus on, and they wanted us to take action," said executive director at the Rutgers-based New Jersey Sustainable State Institute Randall Solomon, who added that that there had been a desire expressed by local officials to focus a significant portion of the plan on the educational component. Mr. Solomon pointed to similar work being conducted in Highland Park, Lawrence Township, Hillsborough, and West Windsor, and added that the brunt of any sustainable movement is largely resident-based, rather than governmental: "You have to get well beyond government — and that's reaching out to residences and businesses."

That philosophy is evident in the cross-section of Sustainable Princeton's steering committee. Princeton Regional Schools and Princeton Day School are represented, as well as the Borough Merchants for Princeton, Church & Dwight, PNC Bank, and the Whole Earth Center. In short, said Princeton Environmental Commission Vice Chair Wendy Kaczerski, the lineup represents the face of the community. "We have a very good steering committee based on its broad range of talent," she said.

Lee Solow, planning director of the Regional Planning Board agreed, saying that the group's diversity could lead the initiative in various directions. The Princeton Community Master Plan already encourages building methods that employ sustainable practices, and Mr. Solow said that while outright enforcement is difficult to come by, there are incentive-based programs, like density bonuses, that could compel developers to go "greener" in the construction phase.

Ms. Kaczerski said Sustainable Princeton would likely build a Web site by September outlining the initiative's goals. After that, she said the group would look to the community for suggestions.

In the meantime, roughly $10,000 is being used to conduct energy audits on all municipal and public school buildings.

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