February 15, 2012

Sustainable Princeton Hosts Zero Waste Breakfast, Unveils Interactive “Green Connections” Map Project

Stony Brook pedestrian bridge

STRAIGHTENING UP: The 125-foot long Stony Brook pedestrian bridge that came down during Hurricane Irene was recently reinstalled. Township Engineering Assistant Anthony E. Soriano, Jr., reported that while the original bridge was used in the repair, the reinstallation should ensure that it will “withstand a similar storm in the future.” Federal Emergency Management Agency funds covered 75 percent of the repair work. Additional landscaping and pathway work is being covered by the Township, according to Mr. Soriano.

People munched on bananas, banana bread, and banana muffins; drank fair trade coffee and tea; and tossed their drinks, plates, and cups into bins that said “Please compost here” at Sustainable Princeton’s “Great Ideas” breakfast last week in the Community Room of the Princeton Public Library. “This is a zero-waste event” boasted Sustainable Princeton, and they weren’t kidding: there weren’t even any hand-outs.

The occasion was the unveiling of Sustainable Princeton’s Green Map Project, “Green Connections,” an interactive map featuring green spots in Princeton. The work-in-progress will identify Princeton’s green resources, including parks and woodlands, tree-lined streets, farmer’s markets, school gardens, and more. Township Engineer Bob Kiser, librarian Susan Conlon, and Deputy Township Mayor Liz Lempert were on hand for the event.

Sustainable Princeton was created in 2009 as an initiative of the Princeton Environmental Commission. The organization is currently applying for 501c(3) non-profit status. Its motto is “change a habit, change the world.”

Sustainability success, noted coordinator Diane Landis on Friday morning, is achieved by addressing the environmental, local economic, and diversity-related aspects of going green. She reported that a number of municipalities around the country have already adopted their own “green map systems.”

To celebrate the introduction of the map, several local speakers were invited to give “flash talks” about sustainability efforts being made at their respective stores. and agencies. Labyrinth Books owner Dorothea Von Moltke began by asking the audience for advice on how the store could improve its campaign to collect five cents on every book sold to offset the carbon imprint made by its production. “It’s not doing well,” Ms. Von Moltke said of the effort, noting that the main difficulty had to do with “implicit moralizing” and the wish to not send people on “guilt trips” by asking them for the money.

Ms. Von Moltke cited Chilean economist Nieves Valdes as her inspiration for the belief that learning, adapting, and change is “where all the promise lies.” The goal isn’t to be bigger, Ms. Von Moltke observed, but to “be better” at responding to changes in the community and, in Labyrinth’s case, the book industry.

McCaffrey’s Steve Carney received a round of applause when he announced that the store would be using biodegradable take-out containers by March 1. More applause followed, as he described how McCaffrey’s has recently installed high efficiency refrigeration and cut traditional waste by over 55 per cent since 2008. Collaborating with six area food banks is a win-win situation that results in less trash for landfills while helping those in need. “It was a very easy transition for us,” said Mr. Carney. McCaffrey’s, he said, is striving to be a “zero waste store.”

InFini-T Cafe, Spice Souk, McCaffrey’s, Olsson’s Fine Foods, and Whole Earth Center were thanked for donating food, drinks, plates, and cups and to the Princeton Public Library Environmental Film Festival and this event.