Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 26
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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Sustainable Princeton Plans Ways for Homeowners to Save Energy

Dilshanie Perera

The non-profit environmental group Sustainable Princeton held a meeting last Thursday to focus on ways homeowner associations can encourage their residents to engage in greener practices.

The opportunities for achieving energy savings listed by Sustainability Coordinator Diane Landis included insulating or weatherstripping the home; raising the thermostat three degrees during the summer; using a power strip and unplugging appliances at night in order to reduce “phantom draw”; washing and drying clothes at night; and using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which consume 75 percent less energy than their incandescent cousins.

Wendy Kaczerski, who also chairs the Environmental Commission, said, “Simple things tend to suck up enormous amounts of energy,” adding that the steps above are “probably the most important and efficient things you can do” at home.

Sustainable Princeton intern Sophie Sarkar reported that Princeton residents contribute to 28 percent of the town’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Commercial, municipal, and residential spaces produce 19.8 metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita in the Township, while the Borough produces 2.4 metric tons. Residential production of carbon dioxide from natural gas and electricity usage was 5.62 and 0.67 metric tons per capita in the Township and Borough, respectively.

Township Mayor Bernie Miller wondered how the numbers were disaggregated to delineate statistics between the two municipalities, while Ms. Kaczerski noted that the numbers did not include oil usage, emissions from transportation, or solid waste, and that all of the data came from PSE&G.

Ms. Kaczerski noted that Sustainable Princeton is planning to do a “thorough emissions inventory” either this fall or in early 2010 to precisely determine the patterns and kinds of energy consumption within the town.

“Having residents learn what’s out there can encourage them to make changes around their homes regarding energy,” Ms. Landis suggested, adding that was a particularly good website for calculating personal or household energy use. “We are encouraging all residents to take the challenge of determining their carbon footprint, and then making changes to reduce their footprint over three months,” she said.

An “Eco-Party” will be held on July 10, to bring together 18 households who have pledged to reduce their emissions. Discussing energy in an “informal, comfortable way,” and having fun are all part of the agenda.

In addition to making changes inside one’s home, paying attention to landscaping and waste reduction could also contribute to saving energy and money, Ms. Sarkar said. With about 13.7 percent of domestic water use caused by leaks, she suggested doing a water audit to make sure the system is leak-proof.

Additionally, employing rain sensors so that sprinklers don’t turn on during rainy weather, and installing rain barrels are ways to conserve water, while using compost and mulch tends to keep soil moist. Using native plants in landscaping, and selecting a “no spray” option or integrated pest management system are beneficial as well, Ms. Sarkar reported.

As for reducing waste, since 75 percent of garbage is organic material, composting would significantly curb what ends up in landfills. Encouraging homeowners associations and other groups to go paperless, and setting up material exchanges and community clothing swaps would have the same effect. Finding out what items are recyclable and placing them in the appropriate containers also works toward reducing one’s carbon footprint.

“We’re in somewhat uncharted waters in Princeton right now, since not many other communities are doing this,” Ms. Landis said, observing that “the beauty of it is that it’s a really sweeping community effort.”

For more information, and for a list of ways to become greener, visit

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