September 9, 2015

Teaching How to Save Energy Is Goal of Sustainable Program

TT SustainableThanks to a program sponsored by the non-profit organization Sustainable Princeton, Witherspoon Presbyterian Church will soon find out how much energy is escaping its 175-year-old walls, roof, and windows. Along with Labyrinth Books at 122 Nassau Street, and One Monument Hall, the church is taking part in Sustainable Princeton’s EnergySmart Buildings Campaign, which is made possible by a $35,000 grant from Sustainable Jersey.

The idea is to track electricity, light and water usage, and analyze real time energy data via energy monitors from the Princeton start-up WattVision. According to Sustainable Princeton’s executive director Diane Landis, the data will help commercial properties, religious institutions, and other organizations be more conscious of how they are using energy and help them learn how to improve their practices.

“We wanted to get a cross-section of properties, and we were very thoughtful in choosing these buildings — a church, a local government building, a commercial property — all of which are very different and use energy differently,” Ms. Landis said. 

The program was among several initiatives outlined by Ms. Landis and Sustainable Princeton energy director Christine Symington at a meeting of Princeton Council last month as part of a report on the organization’s future projects and its activities during the past year. The presentation included details on publication of a Sustainable Living Guide, a partnership with the Princeton Merchants Association regarding the use of plastic bags, an upcoming program called Neighborhood Ambassadors that will mobilize representatives of different sections of Princeton, and the compilation of energy data from the utility PSE&G.

The EnergySmart campaign comes at an opportune time for the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church. The congregation is celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2016. “It’s coincidental, but we we welcome it,” said Denyse Leslie, an elder at the church in charge of buildings and grounds. “The church is very old. We still run oil out of the church, and we have draft problems. Our hope is that we’ll be able to be more energy efficient so we can help keep the church where it should be.”

The church at 124 Witherspoon Street and it’s manse at 453 Walnut Lane, where pastor Muriel Burrows lives, are part of the campaign. An energy audit was recently completed on the manse, and the results have yet to come back. Feedback on the church itself is expected next month. The work began last March, Ms. Leslie said.

“We want to make sure there aren’t any problems with the roof at the manse,” she added. “And at the church, we want to make sure the lighting is as efficient as it can be. A lot of savings can be had with the newer kinds of bulbs. And water is part of it too. All these things have been interesting to us. We were very pleased to see that we can have something in real time, looking at how our buildings are using energy.”

Sustainable Princeton intends to expand the campaign. Letters have been sent to all Princeton commercial property owners inviting them to complete a building inventory survey to enable the non-profit organization document areas of opportunity for energy efficiency. The organization, which was formed in 2009 to implement the town’s sustainability plan, has a goal of reducing energy from fossil fuels 20 percent by 2020, and waste to landfills 50 percent by 2016.

“It’s hard,” said Ms. Landis. “We have a lot more to do as a community raising awareness and making real change that we can measure, but I think we are poised to do that.”