Sustainable Princeton and the town of Princeton have announced initiatives to reduce waste and follow more energy-efficient municipal practices in the coming year. At a press conference Tuesday, plans for a municipal green team and a campaign to help local homeowners reduce energy use and costs were formally unveiled by several speakers, including Mayor Liz Lempert, Sustainable Princeton’s executive director Diane Landis, Princeton Environmental Commission chair Matt Wasserman, and Sustainable Jersey co-founder Randall Solomon.
“The tide is turning, but the tide is not turning fast enough,” Mr. Solomon said of efforts in recent years to increase sustainability. “It’s not enough to expect local governments to figure out how to do this. They need help.”
The municipal green team will include Mayor Lempert, Ms. Landis, administrator Robert Bruschi, municipal engineer Bob Kiser, the town’s Infrastructure and Operations Director Robert Hough, Planning Board member Cecelia Birge, and environmental commission member Gail Ullman. Ms. Lempert said the team will evaluate current sustainability practices. Princeton is currently certified bronze by Sustainable Jersey, having earned the required 150 points for its sustainability efforts. To be certified silver, Princeton would need 350 points.
“We will work hard on becoming silver-certified,” Ms. Lempert said. “My goal is for Princeton to be a leader in the state when it comes to sustainability.”
For its campaign to help local homeowners become more energy efficient, Sustainable Princeton has contracted with Ciel Power company, which has similar programs in operation in Highland Park and Woodbridge. Under the EnergySmart Homes program, Princeton residents can have home energy assessments for $49, which is discounted from Ciel Power’s regular $99 fee. Homeowners who sign up for the program can qualify for up to $5,000 in cash rebates and up to $10,000 in zero-interest financing for home energy improvements that reduce energy use by up to 30 percent.
Helping get the program off the ground is a $10,000 grant from Princeton University’s Office of Community and Regional Affairs. Two panel discussions with local home energy experts are being planned as part of the initiative. The first is scheduled for October 29 in the Community Room at Princeton Public Library. Short videos about how home energy improvements help the environment and save money will be screened during the library’s annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival in February 2014.
Local homeowners will receive letters from Mayor Lempert in coming days urging them to participate in the campaign, which is based on a model designed by Sustainable Jersey. The town earns 20 points toward silver certification by promoting the program. Other initiatives that have earned points for the municipality include recycling organics, holding farmer’s markets, and encouraging school gardens. There are currently 11 silver-certified towns in New Jersey, and more than 100 bronze, according to Mr. Solomon.
Scott Fisher of Ciel Power said that homes built before 1980 can benefit most from the EnergySmart program. Poor insulation in attics and basements and older equipment that needs upgrading are often identified as in need of improvement by the assessments. Customers can choose Ciel Power if they decide to make those improvements, or hire another company.
The goal is to have at least 100 homes enrolled by next August, Mr. Fisher said. But Mr. Wasserman of Princeton Environmental Commission said he hoped to have better results. “I will be disappointed if we only get 100,” he said, adding that while cost savings for homeowners are important, the real impetus for the program is something else. “It’s good to save money, but what it’s really about is how we cut our carbon footprint,” he said. “And we think this is a wonderful way to do it.”