Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 35
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
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Green Expectations: Chamber Members Study Sustainability

Dilshanie Perera

There’s no denying it: green is in vogue. Beyond contemporary fashion, sustainability and heightened environmental consciousness have become key issues in a time of high gas prices and global warming.

Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce members heard a presentation on sustainability last Wednesday from Princeton Environmental Commission Member Matthew Wasserman, who is also the Director of Global Portfolio and Product Stewardship at Church and Dwight Co. Mr. Wasserman’s objective was to inform Chamber members about how their businesses could increase green awareness while decreasing energy consumption.

Defining sustainability as “meeting our needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations,” Mr. Wasserman added that businesses and individuals “need to make sure that every decision takes into account” the elements of sustainability linking “the environment, economy, and society.”

Mr. Wasserman also heads the Business and Non-Profit subgroup of Sustainable Princeton, a committee formed by the Borough and Township that is developing an environmental action plan for the business community and non-profit sector in Princeton.

Among the goals of Sustainable Princeton that Mr. Wasserman elaborated upon were: greening the built environment, improving transportation, building strong local ties, curbing emissions, protecting natural resources, and educating the community.

Potential projects include a website geared toward businesses that would list ways to decrease waste production and energy use while spurring new initiatives centered on reuse and recycling. Regarding the best practices of sustainability, Mr. Wasserman said, “you have to start with using less, and if you need to use it, then reuse it, and if you can’t reuse it, recycle.”

In addition to mentioning a website for proactive business owners, Mr. Wasserman suggested a creative incentive program for green businesses, a window sticker program for customers to easily identify sustainable businesses, and buying from other local businesses as ways to spur environmental initiatives in the business community.

Princeton businesses, schools, municipalities, and organizations could also band together to implement a sustainable purchasing program, which could “leverage its size to purchase greener commodity products at discount prices,” noted Mr. Wasserman.

Understanding one’s own carbon footprint and patterns of consumption is the first step toward becoming more green, according to Mr. Wasserman. “Find out how much energy you use, and just use less,” he said, matter-of-factly, elaborating on how improvements can continually be made once a baseline is developed regarding energy consumption, water usage, and waste production.

Turning off appliances also conserves energy, according to Mr. Wasserman. Computers, “anything with a remote,” and other electrical apparatus all can use energy “even when you think the appliance is off,” he noted, citing the Environmental Commission’s donation of “kill-a-watt” meters to the Princeton Public Library.

The Library’s Public Information Director Tim Quinn reported that the library is saving about $6,000 per year by switching the computers to standby mode rather than only logging off. “Since we moved into the new building in 2004, we’ve always been looking at ways we can minimize our energy costs,” he said.

A number of energy-saving initiatives are already underway at the library. Mr. Quinn elaborated on some of them, saying that compact fluorescent light bulbs have been installed wherever possible, and after-hours cleaning crews operate on a floor-by-floor basis, switching lights off when they are finished. “Interestingly enough, our staff is keeping the overhead lights off in staff offices, unless needed otherwise, and all of our desks have individual desk lights,” he pointed out.

Mr. Quinn mentioned that the library is currently looking into installing motion sensitive lighting in restrooms, and solar panels on the roof, pending a grant or low-rate loan. In January the library stopped offering plastic bags and began selling reusable eco-friendly bags. “One of our most visible signs is our red bag, which is very popular,” he said.

Concerning the force that drives green initiatives, Mr. Wasserman said, “It starts with society. If people weren’t screaming for it, then companies wouldn’t say they’ve got it.” At the same time, he noted that “heads of companies, CEOs, and boards have to implement company policy” and that sustainable initiatives need to be supported by decision makers as well.

Summing up the appeal of sustainable praxis, Mr. Wasserman remarked that “at the end of the day, we want Princeton, and the greater Princeton area, to be a thriving community.”

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