June 5, 2019

Numerous Residents Weigh In On Draft of Climate Action Plan

By Anne Levin

May 31 was the final day for Princeton residents to comment on the draft of the town’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). According to Sustainable Princeton, which coordinated the collaborative effort to create the document, interest from the public has been significant.
“It has been huge — pretty substantial,” said Molly Jones, Sustainable Princeton’s executive director. We have been delighted by the response.”

Jones said there were 1,619 online page views for the 62-page draft. A total of 334 comments were recorded, with the greatest number going to the categories of Land Use and Transportation, followed by Materials Management, Energy, Natural Resources, Resiliency, and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals.
In an effort to engage the public, Sustainable Princeton held several outreach events about the plan over the last few months. The draft was a coordinated effort of 53 Princeton community members over some 18 months, funded by a $100,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The goal is to make Princeton climate-resilient and reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2010 levels by 2050.
“We want to make this about the community’s input and ownership, so people have a vested stake when we go to implement it,” said Jones. “So we had a great number of events to engage the public — at houses of faith, schools, public events, government meetings, and special interest group gatherings. We tried to meet people where they are.”
There are 13 objectives proposed in the draft, which was released in April. Among them are an increase in the number of publicly available electric vehicle chargers to 20 by 2025; promotion of alternatives to car ownership through car-sharing and bicycle-sharing services; the expansion of neighborhood and backyard composting of organic materials; and a reduction of emissions from public and private lawn maintenance equipment.
Noise pollution generated significant interest among those who commented. “People are concerned about the emissions and the noise from leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment,” Jones said. “But those are harder nuts to crack, because you’re getting into some debates that have been going on in this community on that subject.”
Jones said making people understand the effects of greenhouse gas emissions is a priority. “People are concerned about waste, but we’re also trying to raise consciousness about where our energy is coming from — how we heat and cool our homes — and how to reduce it,” she said. “Another huge thing is the realization that it’s going to take a lot of changes, on many different levels.”
Putting up new buildings on a smaller footprint, and making existing buildings energy-efficient, are additional priorities, she said.
A steering committee will meet this week to take comments provided by the public into consideration and adjust the CAP draft to reflect them. A final draft will be created in the next few weeks, after which it will go before Princeton Council.
“This is a community-focused plan, so it doesn’t have to be approved. But we will ask for Council’s blessing, which would be a resolution to provide their support. Then this fall, we hope to pull together a greater group of community leaders to discuss how we can continue moving forward among different institutions, and ultimately figure out how to carry the plan out.”