Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 11
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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Mixing Activist Enthusiasm With a Dose of Fun, Sustainable Princeton Launches New Campaigns

Dilshanie Perera

Sustainable Princeton wants you to bring your own bag while shopping. Aiming to reduce plastic waste, the organization is launching a campaign to promote reusable bags and to reduce the demand for single-use plastic bags.

The “Bring Your Own Bag” (BYOBag) effort began in January at the first monthly meeting of the residents’ working group after the Princeton Environmental Film Festival. Sustainability Coordinator Diane Landis surmised that the film festival was instrumental in inspiring the action.

“They were fresh off of the January intensive immersion about all that’s wrong with the environment and what’s right too,” Ms. Landis said. The film Bag It was screened at the festival, further underscoring the desire to create change in one’s own community, she suggested.

Thus, the “Bring Your Own Bag” campaign was born. Ms. Landis characterized the movement as “intergenerational,” bringing together people of various ages and backgrounds. “People want to feel like they have a role,” she said, adding that the residents involved in the effort have taken the lead in the process of reducing plastic waste.

“We have everything from legislative action, with resolutions signed by the Borough and the Township, to environmental legislative action at the state level,” Ms. Landis acknowledged. “Our success is hopefully going to feed into broader action statewide.”

Working with area merchants is another key component of the bag campaign. “We are encouraging merchants to ask people if they need a bag,” and are determining what kind of signage reminding shoppers would be best at every register. She also reported that Sustainable Princeton is looking into installing a bag share bin, where people are free to deposit used plastic bags and others are allowed to use them.

“We are looking at ways for everything we can do to support the merchant. They are critical,” Ms. Landis added.

With over 1,000 plastic bags used every minute, Ms. Landis noted that 95 percent of them are discarded and end up in waste streams or as environmental pollutants that do not biodegrade. “I’m not against plastic,” she said. “We just need to stop using so much of it.”

The “soft” launch of the BYOBag campaign will be held on June 9 at the Princeton Public Library, where the documentary Bag It will be screened again. The beginning of October will see a major kickoff involving activities and festivities in town pertaining to reducing plastic consumption.

Data regarding the economic benefits arising from using fewer plastic bags will be available at that time too.

Sustainable Princeton is working with Borough and Township Engineers, as well as the Health Department and local restaurant owners in considering biodiesel and biofuel as options for municipal vehicles. Ms. Landis also noted that the Superintendent of Schools is interested in powering school buses by using biofuel.

A partnership between Sustainable Princeton, local schools, and Princeton Community Television (TV30) is working to create a series of environmentally-focused short videos that teachers and staff will be able to use in classrooms.

Six residents from both municipalities are also attending a “Housewarming” training in order to learn basic ways that homeowners can make their residences more energy efficient. And a “Green Team” was recently appointed by both mayors to ensure Princeton’s certification as a “Sustainable Community” from the organization Sustainable Jersey.

“It’s so inspiring to be around all these people,” Ms. Landis said of those affiliated with Sustainable Princeton. “We’re coming together, we’re building community, we’re having fun, and we’re making changes.”

Sustainable Princeton meetings are on the last Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Whole Earth Center. All are welcome. Visit for more information.

See this week’s Mailbox section of Town Topics for a letter on the BYOBag campaign.

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