Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 39
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
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University’s Sustainability Open House Designed to Promote a Greener Campus

Dilshanie Perera

More than a hundred students crowded the lower level of the Frist Campus Center at Princeton University for the Sustainability Open House last Wednesday. Environmental groups, university personnel, professors, and researchers spoke with those in attendance about topics like water quality, sustainable materials, compact fluorescent light bulbs, bicycle culture, and environmental justice.

Wesley Loo of the Class of 2010 is a member of the Ecology Representatives (“Eco-reps”), a group of students who work with the University’s Facilities Department to “promote campus recycling and increased campus sustainability.” He explained that one of the group’s yearly projects, “Recyclemania,” pits Princeton against other colleges across the US in monitoring how much recyclable material is diverted from the campus waste stream. Last year the University placed 25th in the 10-week competition, ahead of all of the other schools in the Ivy League.

Different branches of the University were represented at the fair. Facilities and purchasing staff explained how the entire institution uses 100 percent recycled paper, and how campus dining services purchase sustainable food. Samples of a green roof were available for perusal. Experts were on hand to answer questions and spark dialogue. Engineers discussed eco-friendly projects in the community. Student groups convened to speak about raising environmental consciousness in dorms and in the classroom. Green enthusiasm ran rife.

Associate Manager of the Office of Sustainability Jeffery Domanski, who is also a PhD candidate at the Woodrow Wilson school, said that open house was generally organized around the major tenets outlined in the university’s plan on sustainability. Reducing emissions, conserving resources, and spurring innovative research and civic participation are the broad foci of the plan, which was announced this year.

Noting that the Sustainability Office itself was created in 2006 at the behest of students “in order to determine where we want to go with respect to sustainability,” Mr. Domanski added that the day’s event was “celebrating what’s been done already” while also looking ahead to the future.

The goals of the sustainability plan include decreasing “campus carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020,” and designing “new construction and renovations to use 50 percent less energy than required by current energy code,” alongside creating a heightened sense of environmental stewardship. The five-year giving campaign “Aspire: A Plan for Princeton” aims to “invest $325 million in teaching and research to stimulate fresh collaborations and propel inventive thinking on urgent questions related to energy and the environment.”

One example of such “inventive thinking” is EPICS, the Engineering Projects in Community Service program. Regina Wang, a 2008 graduate of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, mentioned that she and fellow students assessed the air exchange rates of 40 homes in Princeton over the past year. “Many people seal up any cracks in their homes to conserve heat and energy,” she said, “but if it’s sealed up too much there may be unhealthy or unsafe airflow.”

Whether demonstrating the use of solar panels, or working with the Stonybrook-Millstone Watershed Association, the EPICS-related initiatives all include elements of “educating the public regarding energy efficiency,” said Ms. Wang.

All in all, the Sustainability Open House has apparently advanced the goal of expanding the discourse about sustainability on campus and in the local community as the University looks toward a greener future.

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