February 14, 2024

Sustainable Princeton Gives Progress Report On Climate Action Plan

By Anne Levin

Five years ago, Princeton adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve environmental quality, and enhance public health and safety. Closely involved in the plan is Sustainable Princeton, which delivered a progress report last Wednesday, February 7 at Princeton Public Library.

Christine Symington, executive director of the nonprofit, emphasized to those in attendance in person and on Zoom that the work that has been done since 2019 “is not ours necessarily, but is the result of many individuals putting together their ideas. We compile it and keep tabs on it. But this is not Sustainable Princeton’s Climate Action Plan. It’s the Princeton community’s Climate Action Plan.”

More than 50 community members have served on a steering committee and working groups since the plan was formed. Among the many professional and volunteer organizations cited during the presentation were Princeton’s Shade Tree Commission, the Marquand Park Foundation, the Princeton Environmental Commission, D&R Greenway, and numerous others.

Alex Dill, Sustainable Princeton’s program manager, said that contrary to what most people think, the biggest contribution in Princeton to greenhouse gas emissions is buildings, not transportation.

“It’s a big misconception,” she said. “It comes from our homes and our

The plan calls for reducing Princeton’s carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030, 65 percent by 2040, and 80 percent by 2050. “We believe that taking the actions in this plan will be able to get us there,” Dill said. “To calculate this, we update our greenhouse gas inventory every year. That provides a baseline for tracking emission trends, and helps us inform our CAP.”

Dill said 493 residents and 57 businesses in Princeton have participated in PSE&G’s energy efficiency program. The municipality has recently started an outreach campaign with the utility to increase those numbers. Community Solar is another PSE&G program in which multiple subscribers share local generation facilities. There is limited space, and an existing waiting list to participate. Princeton currently has 313 registered solar

installations, a 73 percent increase from 2019, she said.

Symington said how and where we build has to do with the community’s emissions. The connection between land use, transportation, and climate change is “an enormous connection.”

By following smart growth principles, the town can help reach three objectives of the plan: to promote mixed use development at a pedestrian-and-transit-oriented location, reduce vehicle miles traveled by switching to public transit, and expand access to zero-emission vehicles.

The town has completed 3.5 miles of bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and another 4.2 miles are planned for the next two years. The impending delivery of an electric shuttle for in-town transit (formerly the FreeB), and the development of off-road cycle tracks being added by Princeton University on Washington Road are among the other positive developments since the plan was formed.

Princeton has added 20 public charging stations throughout town. All new housing developments must have electric vehicle charging stations, according to ordinance. Data about transitions from gas to electric vehicles rates Princeton third in New Jersey, based on vehicle registration.

Symington mentioned the town’s hiring of a full-time arborist and open space manager, the preservation of the Lanwin tract, and recommendations in the Master Plan to connect green spaces as additional signs of progress. Of the 85 actions in the CAP, some still need to be accomplished.

The presentation concluded with questions and recommendations from the audience. Upcoming events sponsored by the nonprofit include a Princeton Sustainable Home Expo at the Suzanne Patterson Center on March 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit sustainableprinceton.org for more information, and to view the February 7 presentation in full.