Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 22
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
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Saving the Environment From Plastic Bags: BYOBag Campaign to Launch on June 9

Ellen Gilbert

Sustainable Princeton’s “BYOBag” campaign will have its official kick-off on Thursday, June 9, on Hinds Plaza, right outside the Princeton Public Library. Organizers are hoping that the movement’s motto, “change a habit and change the world” will encourage area residents to get into the habit of bringing their own cloth or recyclable bags with them when they’re out doing errands.

“We are trying to change a habit that is harmful to our environment and also wasteful,” said BYOBag Chairperson Sophie Glovier. “Americans use an average of 500 plastic bags per person a year; unfortunately only three percent get recycled. Our goal is to save a million plastic bags from landfills and the oceans this year by encouraging people to bring their own bags when they shop.”

Sustainable Princeton, which is housed in Princeton’s Regional Planning Board offices at 400 Witherspoon Street, was formed as an initiative of the Princeton Environmental Commission, and charged with the creation of a Sustainable Community Plan in partnership with the New Jersey Sustainability State Institute and the residents of Princeton. Following the release of the plan in 2009, funding from a local charity and both Princeton municipalities was established to support the positions of a Sustainability Coordinator (Diane Landis) and an office assistant (Andres Reinero). Working with the residents, businesses and non-profits, schools, and municipalities of Princeton, Sustainable Princeton now develops community outreach programs to inform and encourage the people of Princeton to be more sustainable.

“Making deeper connections between residents and local businesses has been one of the great side benefits of BYOBag Princeton,” Ms. Glovier noted. “Grocery stores like McCaffrey’s and Whole Earth Center were early adopters of reusable bags, but the movement is spreading quickly to encourage customers to bring their bags for all kinds of purchases. Local merchants from CoolVines to Landau’s, to Princeton Record Exchange, jane consignment, Small World, and Olive’s are jumping in.” Nick Hilton of Hometown Princeton has endorsed the effort, said Ms. Glovier, and presentations at two Princeton Merchant Association meetings were met with “enthusiastic responses.” At the Princeton Shopping Center, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports has come on board, and plans are being made to hold an event with the Princeton Shopping Center Tenants Association.

Charter BYOBag businesses will be awarded certificates at the June 9 launch.

The June 9 festivities will be highlighted by music, Stone Soup circus performers wearing “upcycled” plastic bag costumes, and a My Favorite Reusable Bag contest sponsored by jane consignment store. Bag It, a documentary film on the world-wide use of plastic bags and their impact on the environment and human health, with proposed alternatives and solutions, will be screened in the Library’s Community Room at 7:30 p.m.

“I hope everyone in Princeton joins us on June ninth,” said Township Mayor Chad Goerner who, along with Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman, will be at the event to read a portion of the BYOBag resolution that was passed by both municipalities earlier this year. “There is so much energy and commitment behind the BYOBag campaign.”

In addition to the resolutions passed by both municipalities, year-long events leading up to next week’s official opening included a recent “flash mob” and yoga demonstration in Palmer Square.

“We have to work at restriction of single-use plastic bags and we truly need to re-educate ourselves as people and as consumers,” observed area activist Daniel Harris.

“It is so rare to have an opportunity to make a huge environmental impact,” observed Ms. Glovier. “Picture 500 plastic bags for every American for every year in perpetuity filling landfills and oceans. We can significantly decrease this dire scenario with one simple action: bringing our own reusable bags.”

For more information or to become a BYOBag business, visit www.sustainableprinceton.org, where there is also a link to a site describing a mini-movie that is being created to educate children about the dangers of plastic bags, and to motivate them to encourage their families to use their own bags.

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