November 27, 2019

“OptOutside” on Black Friday; “Shrink Your Footprint” on Dec. 4

By Donald Gilpin

Local residents will have opportunities to stand up for the environment at two events in the coming week: “OptOutside,” sponsored by Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS) at the Mountain Lakes House on Black Friday, November 29, from 2-4 p.m., and Sustainable Princeton’s “Shrink Your Footprint: On the Go” program offering practical suggestions to help reduce carbon emissions by exploring transportation options at the Princeton Public Library (PPL) on December 4 at 7 p.m.

“Friends of Princeton Open Space truly believes in the values that inspired REI [the Seattle-based Recreational Equipment, Inc.] to start OptOutside Friday, an initiative which encourages people to enjoy spending time in nature with their family and the community the day after Thanksgiving, rather than focusing on a consumer culture that creates so much needless waste,” said FOPOS President Wendy Mager.

The Princeton OptOutside free event features a nature-themed art activity, music, cider and snacks, and a walk on the trails in the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve.

“We encourage everyone to visit the Mountain Lakes House on Friday to socialize, enjoy music and a nature art activity, and then go for a soul-refreshing walk in the Mountain Lakes Preserve,” Mager added. “Outside, folks will see what FOPOS is doing to care for this special park and restore the forest for ourselves and our fellow creatures.”

Attendees are requested to pre-register at (search “OptOutside in Princeton”).

November 29 is also the kickoff to the FOPOS Give Thanks for Nature Photo Contest, with visitors encouraged to take their best shot of the Mountain Lakes Preserve. Contact for contest rules and further information.

A photography exhibition at the Mountain Lakes House, “The Beauty of Nature,” highlights work by Princeton Academy student and previous winner of FOPOS’ annual photography contest Sam Wang, who will be donating proceeds from the sale of his photos to FOPOS.

Sustainable Princeton Forum

The Sustainable Princeton event on December 4 in the PPL will feature a trio of industry experts highlighting ways to get around while reducing your carbon footprint.

“We need to rethink the way we do things,” said Princeton Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton, the lead-off panelist. “Change is good. It’s going to happen, so be a part of it.”

Stockton will be joined by Dosier Hammond, chair of the Public Transit Advisory Committee (PTAC) and co-chair of the Transportation Communications Task Force (TCTF), and Princeton High School (PHS) science teacher Joy Barnes-Johnson.

Stockton said that she will be talking about “what we as a municipality are doing about alternative transportation, bike share, car share, and complete streets.” She added that additional bike and pedestrian facilities are in the works, and she encouraged everyone to get involved. “Start with walking instead of driving to the grocery store if you can,” she said.

Hammond is looking forward to continuing to inform Princeton residents about the public transportation infrastructure in town. “The Alexander Road bridge closing early this month gives residents an idea why they should look at public transportation,” he said.

A Transit Princeton brochure recently published by TCTF urges travelers, “It’s more important than ever to take advantage of transportation alternatives. Taking the freeB or Tiger Transit to the Dinky can get you quickly to Northeast Corridor trains and US-1 locations,” the brochure states.

“Public transit is healthy for residents and for the environment,” Hammond said. “Also it cuts out the stress of traffic and parking, and reduces wear and tear on your car.” He pointed out that since PTAC revised the freeB schedule last year, there are more trips around town and a lot more people are taking advantage of it. “Ridership has increased by 20 percent,” he said. 

The new Transit Princeton brochure, which describes all the public transit routes in Princeton with a map showing where they all go, will be available at the December 4 meeting. It will also be available at the two municipal buildings, at the Dinky station, and at the PPL, and it will be mailed out to Princeton households in the next month.

Further initiatives, Hammond mentioned, will include new, more useful and informative signage for all public transit stops and additional information later this fall and next year to encourage walking, biking, and public transit, “for the sake of health and the environment and to relieve traffic and parking frustrations.”

PPS Combats Climate Change

Barnes-Johnson, who will moderate the proceedings, commented on the growing role of youth in the climate change discussions, and cited a number of initiatives at Princeton Public Schools (PPS).

Climate change is a major theme in this year’s Biology I curriculum at PHS, she said. Teachers are inviting speakers into their classrooms, and students are designing relevant experiments. History teacher Kim Groome led PHS’ participation in the 24-hour Climate Reality Project, inviting a LEED engineer to speak to classes; while Paula Jakowlew has invited students to design compost experiments; James Smirk and facilities coordinators at PHS are collecting data and leading communications efforts to promote more responsible practices in the building; and some chemistry students are learning about Sustainable Development Goals and the World Economic Forum risk report. 

English, social studies, and science teachers have collaborated, as part of the district professional development program, to design educational programs to address “a planet in peril,” with the goal of hosting a community-wide youth agency symposium in May 2020.