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Going Green in Princeton Is Mainstream

Linda Arntzenius

Going Green in Princeton is easier than ever. While environmentally-conscious businesses such as the Whole Earth Natural Grocery have long been leading the way, it now seems that everyone has seen the green light. And it’s a go!

In addition to governments and what they can do to ameliorate the planetary effect of global warming, individuals are examining their own lifestyles for changes that could benefit the local environment.

But while green rhetoric seems to be everywhere, with stores and services touting the “sustainability” of their products, it’s not always clear what can be done to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Change, it is said, is never easy, but in Princeton, at least, there is no lack of resources to guide consumers and taxpayers through the process of “going green.”

Homegrown advice with respect to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle goals can be found on the websites of the Borough of Princeton (www.princetonboro.org) and the Township of Princeton (www.princetontwp.org) as well as the community group Sustainable Princeton, which operates under the umbrella of the New Jersey Sustainable State Institute (njssi.org/princeton). Grassroots activism can be found through the Friends of Princeton Open Space (www.fopos.org/), which guides efforts that protect the town’s parks and natural preserves.

All of these websites include links to others that connect Princeton to the global greening effort. Following is a brief guide to resources that point toward energy efficiency such as water saving toilets, avoiding polyvinylchloride (PVC) products, using bamboo for everything from towels to flooring, efficient lighting, zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints [visit greenhomeguide.com for these and reclaimed wood flooring], using a mug instead of virtually indestructible styrofoam for coffee and water (filtered tap rather than plastic bottled) to vacationing close to home, installing a dog loo, shutting down appliances when not in use, and ultimately replacing them with Energy Star appliances.

Sustainable Princeton

Visitors to Sustainable Princeton’s website are challenged to change a light bulb, start a compost pile, and occasionally abandon their cars in favor of mass transit, walking or biking. Energy saving suggestions for homeowners include updating home insulation and investing in low-energy appliances. Princeton businesses are similarly urged to reduce the energy needs of their buildings; minimize polluting emissions; introduce recycling programs; and promote alternative methods of transport to their employees.

According to the Ridefinders of Greater Mercer (www.gmtma.org), which offers a carpooling service for area commuters, cars that get 40 miles to the gallon produce 3.4 tons of pollutants each year. Higher gas consumption creates even more pollution. A car that gets just 15 miles to the gallon yields 9 tons of emissions annually.

Urging consumers to “pump tires, not gas,” Ridefinders suggests carpooling, telecommuting, public transport, or compressing the work week into fewer travel days, if cycling is not an option.

Princeton drivers who want to car share can sign on to the Zipcar program (www.zipcar.com) and drive minis, VWs, hybrids and other zippy vehicles by the hour or the day, paying a set fee that includes gas, insurance, and parking. The cars are located at Princeton University’s Frist Campus Center and at the Spring Street Municipal Garage.

For shorter journeys, the Borough’s new free jitney service (www.princetonboro.org/jitney), the Free B, loops around the town center during commuter hours and stops at the NJ Transit Dinky station.

Princeton Township’s Sidewalk and Bikeway Advisory Committee, which organized Princeton’s first Walk/Bike Rally on the Albert Hinds Community Plaza on May 10, pushes for more bike paths and safe routes for children from school to the downtown Princeton Public Library.

Beside bike shops, Jay’s Cycles on Nassau Street (www.jayscycles.com) and Kopp’s Cycle Shop, the nation’s oldest bike shop, on Spring Street (koppscycle.net), local cyclists also find support from the Princeton Freewheelers (www.princetonfreewheels.com), which organizes rides in the region as well as links to other bike clubs and national and local advocacy organizations.

Buying Local and Seasonal

Princeton’s grocery stores not only promote locally grown and organic seasonal produce, they sell reusable cloth bags to replace plastic and paper alternatives (Princeton Public Library also sells snazzy red bags for $1). Stores such as McCaffrey’s offer monetary incentives to repeat users.

In addition, organic and locally grown vegetables, fruits, meats, and milk products are on sale at farmer markets in nearby West Windsor and on the Princeton University campus. The West Windsor Community Farmers’ Market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday from May to October. Also open year round, Terhune Orchards Farm Store, has 200 acres yielding seasonal apples, pumpkins, and pick your own raspberries, as well as cider and baked pies (www.terhuneorchards.com).

The University’s seasonal farmers’ market takes place on Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Firestone Plaza weekly from mid-April to mid-May, in September and October, and on Thanksgiving. For information on dates, visit the University’s Office of Sustainability (www.princeton.edu/sustainability).

Jersey Fresh (www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov/), a State of New Jersey Dept. of Agriculture website, helps consumers find out what’s in season at farms, roadside stands, and pick your own sites, as well as tips for choosing fresh produce, seasonal recipes and restaurants using Jersey products.

Home gardeners are supported in their efforts by the Master Gardeners of Mercer County (www.mgofmc.org/), which provides information on reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, conserving water and energy, and improving soil quality by composting. The Mercer County Compost Center (www.mgofmc.org/compostbins) has demonstrations of various types of composting techniques.

Since backyards attract a variety of wildlife from songbirds to butterflies, frogs, rabbits and deer, the National Wildlife Federation (www.nwf.org/backyard) suggests suburban residents welcome these creatures by replacing grass lawns with native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

Princeton birders can do something for the birds by drinking shade grown coffee. For an explanation of the relationship between the two, visit: http://nationalzoo.si.edu/ConservationAndScience/MigratoryBirds/Coffee/

An estimated 53 million trees and 3.6 million tons of paper go to make the 19 billion catalogs that are mailed to American homeowners every year. Those receiving unwanted catalogs can take advantage of a new online service from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). To remove your name from the mailing lists of DMA members, visit www.dmachoice.org/mps.

Reduce/Reuse/Recycle

The Borough’s website has information about recycling everything from plastic flowers to used motor oil. The Township’s Department of Public Works lists recycling dates, stormwater management guidelines, chemical waste disposal, cell phone and computer recycling.

Household appliances can be taken to the Convenience Center on River Road, which also accepts off-the-rim tires and used motor oil on Saturdays and Mondays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A permit from Borough Hall is needed to get into the center. For more information, call (609) 497-7639.

While rechargeable watch and cell phone batteries weighing less than 2 lbs. can be disposed of at drop-off containers in Radio Shack, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Sears, dry cell alkaline batteries, (AAA, AA, A, C, D, 9 volt) can now be placed with regular household garbage. Wet cell batteries, however, such as those used in cars and boats must be disposed of during Mercer County Household Chemical Waste Disposal Day, which handles special items deemed inappropriate for the town’s yellow or green buckets: televisions, VCRs, fluorescent bulbs, insecticides, insect repellents, pesticides, pool chemicals, enamel or oil-based paint, paint thinners, turpentine, and used motor oil,. For dates and location, call (609) 278-8086.

Other non-recyclable items such as latex paint, packing peanuts, and bubble wrap, can also be disposed of with regular household refuse, or, in the case of clean packaging, reused or offered to local shipping outlets. Pizza boxes and plastic and styrofoam take-out containers must also go in with the regular household refuse.

MercerMax, a new Mercer County recycling program, enables residents and businesses to make online trades or inquiries for goods or services (www.mercermax.org).

Product Stewardship

At www.realgoodscatalog.com, the website of a solar company website that has been in business for 30 years, consumers can find environmentally friendly products from solar panels and windmills, to backyard dog potties.

Other online guides to reusing unwanted items are: recycle-steel.org (appliances); dressforsuccess.org (business clothes); rbrc.org (cell phones and rechargeable batteries); sharetechnology.org (computers); neweyesfortheneedy.org (eyeglasses); greendisk.com (floppy disks and videotapes); www.operationfairydust.org (formal dresses); loosefillpackaging.com (packing peanuts); earth911.org (paint); epa.gov/garbage/tires (tires).

For advice about buying and using the products you love without destroying the planet, visit www.earth911.org, which suggests consumers look at product lifecycles -- the journey of a sheet of office paper from raw material to finished product, for example. If there is a step in that process that buyers would not want to be responsible for, they should re-think their purchase.

A couple of shoppers in McCaffrey’s recently asked about the source of the fish they were considering purchasing. The knowledgeable clerk not only supplied details of the source country, how the fish was shipped, packed, stored, he gave them a lesson on fish selection and cooking methods.

Consumers are practicing product stewardship when they ask questions such as: who made this and how? were they fairly paid? how was this grown and what was the impact on the environment?

And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing!

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