December 13, 2017

Sustainable Princeton Plan Identifies Areas of Progress And Areas Needing Work

By Anne Levin

A lot has changed since Princeton Council adopted the Sustainable Princeton Community Plan in 2009.

The former Borough and Township have consolidated. Sustainable Princeton has become an independent nonprofit organization. But the plan’s aim of addressing the town’s environmental impact, and developing a long-term strategy toward achieving a truly sustainable community, have remained the same.

Sustainable Princeton will deliver a progress report on its efforts at Princeton Public Library’s Community Room tonight (Wednesday, December 13) at 7 p.m. Mayor Liz Lempert, who recently attended the summit of mayors on climate change in Chicago, is among those who will speak at the event. The public is encouraged to attend.

“We want people to come to hear some of the key areas we think still require attention, and we want them to start providing feedback on the next step,” said Molly Jones, Sustainable Princeton’s executive director. “This is really a progress report to see where we started from and where we are going.”

Jones stressed that since its adoption, Sustainable Princeton has been a community-wide effort. “The plan and what has transpired since it was formed have really been a collaboration,” she said. We have been there to nudge it along, but I want to acknowledge the many citizens in the community who have had a hand in it.”

Once it became a nonprofit in 2012, Sustainable Princeton established six goals for which progress was to be measured, and action plans specific to government, schools, businesses and nonprofits, and residents. The organization last delivered a progress report six years ago.

Since then, Princeton has been re-certified at the silver level by Sustainable Jersey, earning the third most points behind Woodbridge and Summit. Littlebrook Elementary School, Johnson Park Elementary School, and John Witherspoon Middle School have all earned bronze level certification. “We expect the other public schools will get that certification soon, too,” said Christine Symington, Sustainable Princeton’s program director.

According to Symington, Princeton was one of the first towns to have residential curbside organic pickup. “We have about 1,000 participants out of 7,000 households, so we’re holding steady,” she said when asked if the program was a success. “We think it will benefit from a lot of increased attention at the state level about food waste.”

Symington cited the town’s inclusion of the Bike and Pedestrian Plan to the Circulation Element of the Princeton Master Plan as another example of progress, along with the installation of two vehicle charging stations in the Spring Street Garage. In addition, she said, the Princeton Environmental Commission has worked closely with the town’s engineering department to pass a stormwater ordinance and upgrade.

“These are thing we should be proud of and really are a testament to the collaborative nature and engagement of the community,” Symington said. “Multiple groups worked on them.”

The progress report will focus on the area of climate change. “We’re going to talk a lot about the future climate action plan, which will commence next year,” said Jones. “This is sort of a lead-in to that. A lot has happened with regard to climate change awareness since the goal was established, and it needs to be revisited.”

Those attending the meeting are encouraged to provide ideas and feedback.

“Thanks to the efforts of numerous community members and organizations, the 2009 Sustainable Plan has resulted in positive progress on many fronts, but there is still much to be done,” said Jones. “As we begin work in the months ahead on a Climate Action Plan for Princeton, we will build upon the 2009 Plan’s accomplishments to arrive at forward-looking strategies to further reduce our climate footprint. From the wildfires out West to the horrifically powerful hurricanes that pummeled the southern U.S. and Caribbean islands this year, the impacts of climate change have shown their tremendous force and make the urgency to act even more important. “