Sustainable Princeton, Plasma Physics Lab Host “Green” Events for Fun and Education
By Donald Gilpin
Sustainability is in the spotlight in Princeton this weekend, with Sustainable Princeton’s Clean Commuting Festival and eCommuter Fest at the Princeton Shopping Center on Friday, September 22, from 4 to 7 p.m. and a Community Sustainability Celebration on Saturday, September 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) at 100 Stellarator Road.
The Sustainable Princeton electric vehicle (EV) ride and drive event promises live music, test drives of the latest eBikes and EVs, games, and “a community EV owner showcase”; while visitors to the PPPL on Saturday will encounter an assortment of local environment-focused organizations, find out how PPPL is forging the path to fusion energy, “the ultimate source of clean energy,” and learn what they can do here and now in their own backyards.
‘Our focus going forward is to make the ‘e’ in eCommuter Fest stand for more than just ‘electric,’” said Sustainable Princeton Executive Director Christine Symington as quoted in a Sustainable Princeton press release. “We’re expanding eCommuter Fest to showcase more ways of getting around that are sustainable, affordable, and accessible to everyone.”
She continued, “It’s great to see personal EVs being so widely adopted, but walking, biking, and using public transportation have a lower environmental impact and allow everyone to play a part in reducing our community’s transportation-based emissions.”
Among the dealers offering EV test drives on Friday will be Princeton Jeep, Princeton Mercedes, Haldeman Ford, Haldeman Lexus, Team Toyota of Princeton, Porsche (display only), Princeton Polestar, and Buick GMC Cadillac. E-bike test rides will be available courtesy of Princeton eBikes, Jay’s Cycles, Pedego, and Sourland Cycles.
A number of other organizations and vendors will be present at the Princeton Shopping Center, offering a variety of information, merchandise, and services, all related to the sustainability theme. In addition there will be raffle prizes, including a level 2 charger donated by NRG Energy, which is co-sponsoring the event.
The Green Planet Band will provide music for the event. Spanish translation services will be available. Walking, bussing, biking, and carpooling are highly encouraged “in the spirit of clean commuting,” the Sustainable Princeton press release notes.
“We are excited to once again join Sustainable Princeton in bringing the 2023 eCommuter Fest back to Princeton,” said NRG Commercial Development Director Danita Park. “This event provides consumers with an opportunity to experience electric transportation firsthand, engage with EV technology, and ask their burning EV questions.”
She continued, “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the benefits of electrifying our personal and commercial transportation. The event marries NRG’s goals with Sustainable Princeton’s mission, and I am excited for another great event this year.”
Highlights of Saturday’s event at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab will include a presentation on “PPPL and the Path to Fusion Energy” by PPPL Director Steve Cowley, a keynote speech by Princeton University Energy Plant Director Ted Borer, science demonstrations, an electric vehicle show, electric bus rides around the PPPL campus, free giveaways, and more.
“We thought it would be great to bring together a variety of organizations from the state of New Jersey, local government, and nonprofits to talk about some of our initiatives and, most importantly, to provide information to people about how they can increase their sustainability efforts and the various programs that are out there to make those efforts affordable for all,” said Andrew Zwicker, a state senator and the PPPL head of strategic partnerships and public engagement.
Zwicker pointed out that this is the first PPPL Community Sustainability Celebration and the first time since the end of the pandemic that the PPPL has opened its doors to the public for a major event. “This is an initiative from the Department of Energy for the laboratories to be leaders when it comes to sustainability,” said Zwicker, noting that the PPPL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.
In addition to its groundbreaking work in developing fusion energy, the PPPL pursues its commitment to sustainability in many different ways.
“Our primary mission is to help develop the ultimate source of clean energy, fusion energy, which is safe, clean, and unlimited, with no greenhouse gases,” said Zwicker. “It is one of the greatest scientific and engineering challenges ever attempted by humankind.”
He went on to note that PPPL practices sustainability in the amount of energy it consumes in all aspect of its operation, “from using LED lightbulbs to recycling efforts, to making sure our buildings are energy-efficient.”
He added, “We also want you to know about some of our efforts and also know steps you can take now and programs that are in place to help you.”
There will be more than two dozen organizations talking about sustainability efforts at Saturday’s event, and the PPPL science education team will be presenting demos for students of all ages on subjects ranging from what is plasma to electricity, magnetism, light, and color.
“These are fun demos that are very family-friendly and lead to how this all relates to sustainability,” said Zwicker.
Everyone who attends the PPPL celebration on Saturday will receive a free plant to plant in their yard “in order to continue to make our earth and our state a little bit cleaner,” Zwicker said.
“Being good stewards of the earth is something all of us can do,” he continued. “And little things can make a big difference when we do them all together. This event will help to show a lot of different things you can do at home.”
For more information, visit “Events” at pppl.gov.