Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 44
 
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
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It Might Not Be Easy Being Green, but Residents Say It’s Worth a Shot

Matthew Hersh

The Princeton High School cafeteria was a mess. Sections of it were closed off, bathrooms were out of order, tables were piled haphazardly high, and the persistent rain left a chilly aura over the assembled crowd of about 150.

But after being sectioned off into six workshops, the distractions seemed to vanish as Princeton residents sat down to plan for the future. Topics ran the gamut from promoting more walking and biking among Princeton’s student population to replicating the Trenton Farmer’s Market in downtown Princeton.

Last Wednesday, Sustainable Princeton held its first of three workshops with a series of “green challenges” devised to encourage residents to respect the environment, live healthier lifestyles, and create a more sustainable community. Sustainable Princeton, an initiative of the Princeton Environmental Commission, is a grant-subsidized, municipally sanctioned program that looks at not only creating more energy-efficient government and school buildings, but also educating the residents of the municipality to consider long-term aims, including sustainable financing.

“Whether it’s changing your light bulbs, washing clothing in cold water, or doing more biking, I think we can find that there are a lot of things we can do in the long-term,” said Princeton Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, a member of Sustainable Princeton’s steering committee

Working under the aegis of the Rutgers-based New Jersey Sustainable State Institute, Wednesday’s two-hour workshop was designed as a first step in establishing a Sustainable Princeton Community Plan, setting goals for the future, and tracking progress using indicators and targets. From there, action plans will be established, setting roles for the governments, schools, businesses, civic organizations, and citizens. Residents were asked to chart some of the most important sustainability issues facing them. The resulting list will likely serve as a model for a plan at Sustainable Princeton’s next workshop, which has yet to be set.

“What is it we want to sustain, and how do we want to get there? This is not a one-shot plan,” said Randy Solomon, executive director of NJSSI. “This is an ongoing process that we are going to revisit every year.”

Last year, Princeton Borough and Princeton Township received a $60,000 Building Livable Communities grant from the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey designed to encourage municipalities throughout the region to employ planning methods that work toward sustainable living.

The workshops are intended to be processed by the Sustainable Princeton steering committee, which includes the mayors of both Princetons, as well as representatives from local businesses, institutions, and schools. The committee will produce its findings publicly, and, after a series of dialogues, could produce policy adopted by Princeton Borough Council and Princeton Township Committee.

Wendy Kaczerski, vice chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission, said an energy audit of Princeton school and government buildings, financed by the TCNJ grant, would be completed in the coming weeks and could set a foundation for future workshops.

The initiative will also encourage a green purchasing plan, urging residents to buy common products in bulk that are manufactured “as locally as possible,” Ms. Kaczerski said.

Ms. Kaczerski recognized that Wednesday’s workshop was the first step in a long process, and that Sustainable Princeton was not the only game in town when it came to thinking green. “We know we’re not the be all and end all of sustainable activity in Princeton — there is a lot going on in this community, and our purpose is to be inclusive and cooperative.”

That point rang particularly true with Ralph Copleman, the executive director of Sustainable Lawrence, who offered a playful ribbing of the assembled participants Wednesday. Sustainable Lawrence, a similar, more advanced initiative underway in Lawrence Township, would only work, Mr. Copleman, said, if Sustainable Princeton worked. “You are so far behind,” he quipped. “We can’t be sustainable without you and you can’t be sustainable without us.”

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