Editor’s Note

To say the past few months have been trying is putting things lightly. There is so much for us to consider right now, about ourselves, about others, about our towns and our society.

The re-entry into a world that is covered by clouds of both COVID-19 and racism gives us all a lot to think about and decisions to act on. There are important matters at hand that must get our attention, yet sometimes we can have the most clarity when we step away.

That is why this month Princeton Perspectives issue is Get Outdoors – Experiencing and Appreciating Princeton’s Natural Wonders. Some prefer to live their lives outside, while others borrow the space for a walk, a hike, or a float down the river. In that time away, whether its breathing in the fresh air, listening to the sounds of the birds chirping, or working up a sweat, one can think clearly or not think at all. Back home, the blue skies above your backyard can offer endless relaxation, that is perhaps until the neighbor’s dog barks endlessly or music blasts from the local park nearby.

Disturbance controls and safety measures are put in place to allow you to enjoy your home and to protect you and others from harm. If you’re considering adding an above-ground pool to your yard, read on to learn the Rules of the Outdoors. Noise ordinances, zoning laws and other codes dictate what you and your neighbors can do, when and where.

If the noise at home is sending you running, maybe the woodlands can offer you a chance to unwind? In See, Hear and Touch: Communing with Nature, the Watershed Institute’s Education Director teaches us how to leave life’s business behind and connect to where we are. You might not expect to discover the sounds and sites he describes, but they really are right there. You just have to disconnect, look and listen to find them.

You can look in your own backyard, or you can head out elsewhere to explore. But where should you go? Tracks and Trails – The Hidden Gems All Around Us shares options for all types. Whether you want to go rugged or take a simple walk, be alone or be amongst crowds, we’ve broken down the details to get you on your way.

We are lucky to live in this area nearby so many outdoor opportunities. Soon we will again enjoy the experience of places like Grounds for Sculpture, where art and nature come together so seamlessly. There is a site within the forest of Franklin Township where one local artist found a way to create art in nature. In Creative Creations: Artistry in the Forest she helps us experience her artwork and shares how you can create something similar at home.

Lastly, we have a special Pulse of Princeton for you this issue. Nothing lends itself better to pictures than the great outdoors. And the pictures speak for themselves. Submitted by those that maintain the many preserved lands in and around Princeton, we’ve compiled a beautiful montage to share their favorite nearby nature sites.

Locals rallied after Rodney King, marched after Ferguson and thousands showed up downtown to speak out against racism after George Floyd’s death. Princeton is a community that cares. Yet how quickly and in what ways are we moving forward? Next month, we will start to evaluate the progress of change. Princeton Perspectives will see When the Dust Settles – How a Community Turns Awareness into Action. Click here to join our mailing list and receive the new issue when it posts.

Rules of the Outdoors

The sounds of the jackhammer cutting up nearby driveway pavement. The temptations of the newly filled inflatable pool in your neighbor’s unfenced backyard. The sight of embers burning from an evening campfire.

Sights and sounds you may have never noticed in the past are now all around. The hustle and bustle of pre-COVID-19 life had many out of their homes early, commuting to work or off to school. The lawnmower buzzing at your neighbors or the work crews blasting across the street were of little nuisance, as you often were not home to hear them. Now, with commutes often non-existent and schools finishing up for the year, you may be sleeping in. Or, your new home office might be in the room directly facing the noise. Either way, it could be adding to the stress you’re already under. As spring turns to summer, we will all be spending more time at home than usual, and likely more time in our yards than ever before. Hopefully, everyone is a little more understanding and resilient during these times. But know, there are official parameters in place to keep you safe and sane with rules of the outdoors that control what you (and your neighbors) can hear, see and do.

Unfortunately, there is little recourse if the neighbor’s actions fall within the town codes and ordinances. But it’s helpful to know that if the leaf blower blows before 8am, you have a right to complain. Mondays through Saturdays from 8a.m.-10p.m., power fans, chainsaws, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers and the like are legally allowed to operate. If it is Sunday, sleep in! They are not allowed to operate before 10a.m. and must stop by 8p.m.

The yapping dog that passes by your home might get you riled up, but unless it is barking non-stop for over 10 minutes or on and off for a full thirty minutes, it is simply a frustration and not a violation.

Further, if you sleep past 7a.m., the sound of your neighbor’s renovation project might wake you up. Construction work can begin at 7a.m. Mondays through Fridays but must complete by 6p.m., except in an emergency. So, you can enjoy your dinner in peace. Saturdays it can’t begin before 8am and on Sundays, the work is not allowed.

Keep in mind, the situation works in reverse as well. Though you may want a project done and are working within the local guidelines to do so, being respectful of the noise you are making early in the morning or late at night can go a long way to neighborly relations and a more enjoyable summer.

If minor issues arise, the police department is helping residents, as possible. If you have a concern, Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser suggests, just talk to each other.

“If possible, speak with your neighbor about the issue (while social distancing) and try to work it out. We all need to understand everyone is going through increased stress during this pandemic.”

Laughing, shouting and general sounds of fun can also radiate through the neighborhood. But feel free to let loose, enjoy sports and have fun as long as you’re not unreasonable or excessive. You can play some music, too, but be careful if it can be heard more than 50 feet from your home and turn it down or off by 11p.m.

To add to that backyard excitement, trampolines, tree houses and ziplines can all legally be set up on your property but proceed with caution. Some homeowners insurance policies have exclusions for trampolines, and others may not renew if they discover you have one. Policies may also consider backyard additions like tree houses to be high risk, so it’s worth evaluating your options before you build. In terms of local ordinances, just be sure the zip line is attached to a tree on your property, not your neighbor’s. When placing a trampoline, tree house or adding a zipline, be careful to follow all structure setbacks of the zone it is located in.

If fun in the water is what you’re looking for, go ahead and enjoy! Some town and club pools may be opening up, but if that’s not in your comfort zone, cooling off with a slip-n-slide on your grass warrants no additional considerations. Intex and other inflatable above-ground pools are selling out everywhere. If you’ve purchased one, you may be surprised to learn your little pool may need to be fenced in.

“Construction code requires a fence [4 feet in height] with self-closing gates on all pools with a depth of 24″ or more,” shares Princeton Zoning Officer, Derek Bridger.

That is slightly different than the fence required around in-ground pools, which must have a self-locking mechanism. If you do not have a pool, but simply want more privacy from your neighbors, you may need to contact the zoning department for a permit, variance or to submit a location survey before you raise the height of an existing fence or install a new one. Homes located in the former Boro require a permit for all fencing. Those in the former township adding a fence lower than 6 feet require a permit only if the fence is surrounding a pool.

To relax after a long day, summers often include smores or drinks around a fire pit or campfire. Having one on your grounds can be a great way to social distance or just spend an evening outside with your family. Commercially manufactured fire pits or chimineas are the safest option, notes Ronald DiLapo, Princeton Fire Safety Education Specialist.

“The devices typically come with a spark arrestor screen for fire pits and chimineas have a chimney type stack that helps to prevent sparks from traveling too far from the chiminea when being used,” he explains.

There are also safety guidelines to follow, which include positioning one 15-25 feet from a structure and not under tree limbs that hang down or on a wooden deck. Be careful not to use flammable or combustible fluids to build the fire and keep children at least 3 feet away from the flames. Those same rules apply if you’re building a natural campfire, though it is advised you locate those at least 25 feet from any structure. Clear the area of loose grasses and leaves and try to create a base of stone or earth. With all fire set-ups, it is important to make sure a Red Flag warning has not been posted, to prevent unexpected travel of embers and flames.

“A Red Flag Warning is issued by the National Weather Service and means warm temperatures, very low humidity, and stronger winds are expected to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger,” DiLapo adds.

Most importantly, if you are utilizing any type of fire structure at home, make sure it is fully extinguished before you leave the area. You can wet it down or smother it with dirt to put out the flames. And don’t try to build one in a public area, as open flames are prohibited in all municipal parks, with the exception of the grill area at Turning Basin.

The parks in and around Princeton can, however, be great for enjoying most other activities. Municipal locations are open to the public from dawn until dusk, so take advantage in the daylight but do not bring alcoholic drinks on property or attempt a staycation by camping out. The only nearby park that has an area for camping is Washington Crossing State Park, but unfortunately that campground remains closed until at least June 30th due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you would like to raise a tent in your own backyard, go for it. As long as you don’t violate any other ordinances, there are no barriers to sleeping under the stars on your own property.

As the state and municipality shift towards more normalcy, there is hope people’s stress levels will slowly start to reduce and the resumption of more regular daily activities will create less focus on neighborly issues.

No noise complaints have been made to the Princeton Health Department since isolation began. If we all work together to be aware, be respectful and be careful, we can move forward with safety and sanity in mind to have the best summer the pandemic will allow.

Tracks and Trails – The Hidden Gems All Around Us

After being cooped up at home for several months, people are yearning to get outside. The warmer weather is allowing lovers of nature to get back to their happy place. For those who simply need a change of scenery and fresh air, the natural playgrounds are a wonderful resource for doing so.

“As a person who likes the outdoors, it’s great seeing people get out and about. We have never seen so many people on this property in all the years I’ve been involved,” states Clark Lennon.

Photo Courtesy- Friends of Princeton Open Space

Lennon, a Trustee with Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), is referring to the current crowds at Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve in Princeton. The preserve is most recognized by its property entrance in the center of town, located across from Community Park West. Lately, that parking lot has been filled with cars as visitors explore the areas nearest the Mountain Lakes House and the two small lakes. As people begin re-entering society, some are happy to go where they know and be amongst the crowds. If you want to ensure a safe social distance from others or simply prefer more private space outside, entering parts of the woods at different points in town may offer a more solitude experience. Some have been parking at Farm View Fields on the Great Road. After parking, simply walk back down the Great Road and cross at North Road to an opening in the fence with a kiosk noting the entrance. You can also explore an area further from the main crowds by parking in a small lot on Cherry Hill Road. One favorite spot can be found from there, by traversing the northern end of the woods to Devil’s Cave.

“It’s basically an impressive boulder field and the cave is actually several big boulders which are sitting on top of one another and form a bit of a cave,” describes Lennon.

You can still get to this point from the main parking lot by walking the red trail northeast into John Witherspoon Woods. To find it from Cherry Hill Road, follow the yellow trail around until it intersects with the red trail and continues to Devil’s Cave.

While each unique in their own way, there are special spots like Devil’s Cave found throughout our area. In fact, there are thousands of acres of outdoor space to explore between Princeton and its surrounding towns.

Photo Courtesy – The Watershed Institute

There sits approximately 350 acres of land and nine miles of trail within Mountain Lakes Preserve and FOPOS also maintains trail systems throughout John Witherspoon Woods, Community Park North, Tusculum, Woodfield Reservation and Stony Brook Trail. More than 10 miles of hiking trails are available within the 950-acre Watershed Reserve. 6,800 acres and over 40 miles of trails are stewarded by D&R Greenway Land Trust. Nearby is a 90 square-mile region of contiguous forest, that encompasses 27 different preserves and trails stewarded by the Sourland Conservancy. And though currently closed, by the Institute for Advanced Study, lay the Institute Woods. 589 acres of woods, wetlands and farmland. Spending time in these areas can be healing during these turbulent times.

“There is actually an area of study called ‘ecotherapy’ which explores the strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression,” explains Belinda Seiger, Director of the Anxiety & OCD Treatment Center of Princeton. “Is it the impact on the senses, the sights, the smells, the feel of the breeze or rustle of leaves below your feet….both mental and physical benefits have been recognized including lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response and reduces anxiety.”

SPACES TO SOCIAL DISTANCE

Photo Courtesty – D&R Greenway

There are several wider-open spaces that can offer you this calm. Though we risk exposing some local hidden gems by writing about them, many have room enough for everyone to enjoy. For example, head to Ringoes for a beautiful view of Princeton from the Cider Mill Grassland.

“Imagine 90 acres of a grass meadow and the wind just blows through the grass and it’s so relaxing to be there and reconnect,” boasts Tina Notas, Director of Land Stewardship at D&R Greenway Land Trust. “It’s almost spiritual.”

The grassland is not mowed until later in July, to not disturb the bird nests in the field. A visit now allows you to witness bird migration, or you can go enjoy the interpretive signage about birds and relax in the fields in August, after they are mowed.

For other beautiful fields and meadows, while still allowing social distancing, St. Michael’s Farm Preserve in Hopewell has big parking lots and you can enter on Princeton Ave. to encounter farm fields, host to super wide trails. You could then make your way onto wooded trails, if you desire. There’s also parking on Aunt Molly Road, where you could hike a narrower forest trail, if you prefer.

Photo Courtesy – SourlandNiche.blog

Also in Hopewell sits Baldpate Mountain. Amongst the 10 miles of hiking trails, you could choose White Trail if you want a fairly wide and easy hiking option. You can also park in the lot then hike up to the summit to Strawberry Hill Mansion for a scenic view of the Delaware River and possibly even Philadelphia (on a clear day!).

“It’s really nice to go early,” recalls Sourland Conservancy’s Stewardship Program Coordinator, Carolyn Klaube. “That’s when the birds are singing, there’s not a lot of people out and it’s not hot yet.”

You may find a few other visitors if you head to Hopewell’s Cedar Ridge Preserve, but this location has meadows, a forest and multiple parking lots. You can park on the Van Dyke side and find a stream that children can play in, or park in the bigger lot on Stonybrook Road with wide, flat paths. In August, this is a great site for butterflies.

ALTERNATE TERRAIN

Photo Courtesy – SourlandNiche.blog

If rocks are more your thing, search out the Rocky Brook Trail along the Sourland Mountain Ridge just before the intersection of Routes 518 and 31 in Hopewell. It can be difficult to locate, but when you do, you will find great fun and tons of plants this time of year. Be prepared to jump rocks across a stream to explore.

That trail should not be confused with the Rockhopper Trail, which can be found in W. Amwell. This location has a bog and a beautiful woodland. Along the route you’ll discover exposed stones and geology, fun for climbing. Tending to be less crowded, it’s a good birding spot and home to different woodland flowers. Parking is at nearby Dry Creek Run, just across the street.

“I’ve seen people’s boot prints, but never seen anyone on the trail when I’m there,” shares Klaube. “You walk along the side of someone’s yard, so it feels wrong. But it says ‘trail here,’ so stick to edge of property and walk back to get on the trail.”

TRAILS HERE IN TOWN

Right here in Princeton is Greenway Meadows, located off Rosedale Road. It has several trail options that can send you through the wide meadow areas filled with wildflowers or on narrower trails through the woods. You can start your walk with a peaceful meditation at the labyrinth built alongside the D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center.

Photo Courtesy – D&R Greenway

“If you come into campus and park, there’s a beautiful grove of trees. Right next to it is a circular path, built using stone,” explains D&R Greenway Land Trust Executive Director, Linda Mead. “You walk into the center then turn around and walk out. The idea is you’re going through this process and thinking in your mind as you’re going through it.”

Once you’ve meditated, explore. At one edge of Greenway Meadows runs the Stony Brook. You can follow a single-track trail through the woods and along the brook by traveling the aptly named Stony Brook Trail. You may encounter others along your hike, but it is not crowded and you can create space to pass, if needed. Simply follow the paved sidewalk just between the soccer field and the parking lot towards the woods to find the entrance. You can enjoy skipping rocks in the water as you make your way along the sometimes-rugged terrain that weaves up towards the Hun School of Princeton.

Also connected to Greenway Meadows, across Rosedale Road, is the new Iron Mike Trail. Joining the properties of the D&R Greenway and Johnson Park Elementary School, this quiet area is well-planned with a gazebo and sitting area, formed from fallen trees.

In the western section of Princeton you can find another property that tends to be lesser known, though instead of open space it is all single-track trails. Just north of Princeton Day School, turn onto the Old Great Road to find the Woodfield Reservation (across from Tenacre Foundation). This nearly 150-acre property is ideal for walkers and hikers looking for something slightly more rigorous, as there is some elevation, as well as rocks and roots along the way. If you follow the trail maps to Tent Rock, you can enjoy the great, big boulder sitting out there in the woods.

Unfortunately, the temporary closure of the Institute for Advanced Studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic also means the Institute Woods are closed to visitors. But Rogers Refuge, which borders it, is open. Traveling on Alexander Road onto West Drive, turn off just before the new bridge to enter a birder’s paradise with two marshes and two marked trails.

FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Photo Courtesy – D&R Greenway

While children can explore anywhere, the D&R Greenway built a site just for them. You can find the seldom used one-way in, one-way out Children’s Discovery Trail near the dead end of Province Line Road at Drake’s Corner Road in Princeton.

“We developed it 10 years ago with a 10-year old girl,” shares Notas, adding there are educational signs and activities to navigate through. “Signs say things like ‘I can jump over this stream like a frog’, ‘I want to know why these trees are smaller than the ones over there.’ It’s a great place to find a little fun in nature and explore.”

For a child that likes to run free, Thompson Preserve in Hopewell is a great option. Surrounded by a deer fence, there is a 2-acre area where children can roam at their leisure.

OTHER OUTDOOR OPTIONS

It is fun to run, hike and climb, but those lacking mobility can also experience nature. The Watershed Institute offers a ¼ mile long boardwalk that is raised and wheelchair accessible. It’s a great location to get out and take in beautiful meadow views. It is currently under construction, but open.

And lest we forget, there are waterways to explore as well. Kayaking and canoeing is open in Princeton by the Alexander Road Bridge as well as in Griggstown on Canal Road. And the greatest local water feature, the Delaware River, has several tubing companies that are operating though all now require advanced reservations. If you’d like to go yourself, coordinate with others to buy your own tubes and plan to park a car at the finish point, just before the Washington Crossing Bridge. Another car needs to take you to a drop-in area. One can be found over the bridge near Lambertville’s Golden Nugget Flea Market off Route 29.

However you choose to do it, get on out and explore! It can be helpful for everyone to prepare before you go. To pick a land location, you can go to NJTrails.org. The site lets you input what type of trail you want, with maps, directions and trail descriptions provided. If you know where you’re headed but want to learn more in advance, check out SourlandNiche.blog which has write-ups about every trail. Simply enter your desired location in the search bar to find pictures and more. If you’re out and about and want to know what’s nearby, the TravelStorys App is free to download, and it will populate with sites near your location. You can download your option and utilize the GPS triggered app to provide an audio tour as you traverse.

We hope our guidance helps you find calm and create new experiences. Please stay safe and use common sense as you enjoy the many opportunities that our area offers.

The Pulse of Princeton: What are your favorite local outdoor sites?

Southern California by Riot
Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0
Music provided by FreeMusic109

 

Editor’s Note

Amidst all you are enduring right now, we are thankful that you have chosen to take a moment to explore our third issue of Princeton Perspectives. Our goal is to always take a closer look at what matters to Princeton, and today we believe it is the connections that are guiding us through each day.

When we were discussing topic ideas for this May issue about six weeks ago, I was very optimistic. We were just weeks into isolation and I thought for sure that by mid-May we’d be in a different place. While Princeton, NJ now allows golfing and use of state parks, we unfortunately haven’t yet come out the other side and we’re not sure when we will. Though it remains a difficult time for many, we’re hoping this issue of Princeton Perspectives can provide some morsels of hope.

One of the most enlightening videos I’ve seen over the past two months was of a former Soviet Union citizen who was imprisoned in isolation for over 400 days. He shares his tips for quarantine, which he utilized to endure his own ordeal. He reminds us that right now we individually have little control about what the future holds. So instead of waiting for those plans to unfurl, we should fill each day with a plan that we can control. Read a book, clean a closet and enjoy our hobbies. He urges us to find reasons to laugh, as often as possible. Look for humor in the little things or find jokes online. And overall, he encourages everyone to feel your connection – remember you are not alone! In order for us each to endure today’s pandemic, mentally or physically, we must join with a bigger community to help us through. It’s this last bit of advice we’re exploring in this issue, Connections – What’s Gotten us Through and What Keeps us Going! There are different connections one can experience and a lot they can offer us. Princeton Perspectives is always here to try and keep you connected to our community!

Connecting the Best Parts of Princeton shows how with each other’s support, we will endure. Amazingly, our community has so many groups working together to help each other that we can’t mention them all. But it’s the connectedness of their goals that make it all possible and are making Princeton a better place right now.

Some are propelled to a better place through religious or spiritual practice. In Perspectives from the Pulpit we share the guidance and insights of local leaders as they navigate these unchartered times with their communities and congregations.

For most of us, our daily community these days is our immediate family. Family Connections: Weathering the Pandemic (for Parents, Older Teens and Young Adults) helps those whose household dynamic has shifted recently. If you have older children who had been off at college or living elsewhere and you have suddenly been propelled together again it can be exciting yet complex. Our expert’s column can shed some light.

And while we love our immediate family, there are often others our in our lives that help us feel whole. Those social meetings were suddenly cut off when we were told to stay home. But if you’re reading this magazine online, that means you have access to the internet via a phone, tablet or a computer. Take advantage of what those have to offer. I’ll admit, I’d never heard of Google Hangouts or Zoom before COVID-19, but they have become great everyday tools to help keep up with various networks of people. In The Power of Connecting in a Technological Time we share with you a glimpse of different local communities and how technology platforms are keeping them in touch.

Lastly, we bring you this month’s Pulse of Princeton. It’s a challenge to get a sense of how everyone is feeling when we can’t get close. But we appreciate those we could reach who shared their selfies with us. Check out this video to see how some in our area are staying connected during Spring 2020.

We know these times are tough, but we hope this issue reminds you to take hold of the little things and embrace your connections. Please stay safe, stay healthy and get excited for spring to turn to summer and the great outdoors to become even more accessible. We look forward to sharing ways to experience our beautiful Princeton community’s Natural Wonders in our June issue.

Connecting the Best Parts of Princeton

Singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell once crooned, “go round and round and round in the circle game.” Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s the interconnectedness of people, groups and businesses that’s keeping things going round and round in Princeton.

In a strong market economy, a typical circular flow model demonstrates the movement of money between the household sector and the business sector. It is fueled as money and goods are exchanged when locals enjoy a meal at neighborhood restaurants or customers shop at their favorite stores. Instead of focusing on a flourishing economy, however, today’s circular flow model demonstrates individuals financially supporting businesses to cover the cost of a meal or goods for others, not for themselves. The business sector, instead of focusing on making a profit, is focusing on making ends meet and trying to keep its staff employed. And the workers are doing all they can to keep our society going by saving lives in hospitals, stocking shelves in supermarkets and providing services, food and products people need. It’s a stripped-down circular model and demonstrating the best society has to offer.

Some models are simply paying it forward (purely donations and volunteerism) while others are buy-one, give-one (paying it forward and getting something for yourself as well). Some support small businesses and others communities-at-large. But all are sustaining each other, connecting together.

Penn Medicine Princeton Health doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, medical technicians and other employees have been working tirelessly to help patients afflicted with COVID-19. Earlier this month our local citizens, the hospital and nearby restaurants came full circle to help the hospital workers, through the Healthcare Heroes Fund. Recognizing the need to sustain their staff and assist them once they leave the medical sites, Princeton Health connected with restaurants to create meals for two, to go, enabling every employee to go home with dinner at the end of their shift. Launched in mid-April, the fund sought donations with a goal of raising $150,000. Through the generosity of our community, that goal was recently surpassed. The circle goes round and round…donations come in, restaurant workers get to keep their jobs and create meals and the dinners sustain the healthcare workers (and give them a break) so they can come back to the hospital and save more lives. Since Healthcare for Heroes began handing out meals on May 2nd, more than 2,900 have been taken home.

Lunch bags have also been going to frontline workers at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the Police, Fire and Rescue in Princeton and S. Brunswick,  Princeton Care Center and to help Homefront. The food and delivery from downtown’s Princeton Soup and Sandwich is supported by a GoFundMe campaign set up by owner Lisa Ruddy and her daughter, Alex. It started with their landlord, Palmer Square Management, wanting to send food to the hospital. But Ruddy sensed the community might want to continue the meals.

“We said, let’s just put it out there and see. We posted it and the generosity of people was just overwhelming. Within the first week there were $10,000 in donations,” shared Ruddy. To date, the campaign has raised over $15,000, though it needs more to continue.

“We would like to keep it going. People want a quick easy way they can help and for us it’s keeping the lights on and keeping us going, so it’s a win-win.”

In addition to the more than 1500 lunches Ruddy and her staff have bagged, they’re now also one of several Princeton establishments to join the Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project, a movement launched by Blair Miller amid COVID-19.

Through donations and a “buy one for you, buy one for your neighbor” model, the circle keeps going round as shoppers at McCaffreys and 14 other Princeton establishments can purchase their groceries, restaurant meal or goods and pay for more to be donated to the Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project. The meals and goods are collected and made available to local residents at Studio Hillier on Witherspoon Street three times a week.

Restaurants connecting to their community to help those less fortunate has also become possible through Share My Meals. The not-for-profit organization launched in January as a means to fight food insecurity in our area and prevent food waste. It brought excess food from Princeton University Eating Clubs and local companies to those in need. Just as they were getting off the ground, their partner sites closed, and they quickly shifted gears. Princeton establishments La Mezzaluna and The Meeting House approached Share My Meals looking for a way to keep some staff working, use up their perishable food inventory and help the nearby community in need.

Together they started preparing and delivering trays to their food insecure neighbors. And thanks to early financial support from generous donors, Share My Meals has continued the circular flow, covering the food and basic staff costs. The organization has quickly grown to 25 volunteers who hand-deliver 75 food trays daily to the doorsteps of families. Stanislas Berteloot, a member of the Share My Meals Board of Trustees, says he and many of the volunteers never knew they had so many neighbors struggling to put food on the table.

“Share my Meals, by bringing more privileged people together with less privileged, starts to build a bridge between those communities,” explains Berteloot. “It’s exceptional to have the opportunity to bring about change, to help people communicate with each other.”

Many who once were financially secure are now finding themselves struggling. To meet the demand for meals, Share My Meals is seeking additional funding and had to partner with another restaurant. Trattoria Procaccini is now on board, and each restaurant is preparing 100 meals a day.

The benefits of partnering with the organization came full circle because Get Forky, the restaurant group that owns Trattoria Procaccini, was able to rehire some of its serving staff to help with deliveries and phone orders and maintain most of the kitchen staff on a rotating basis.

“This program can feed my guys,” states co-owner John Procaccini. “Not only are we feeding the needy but by keeping them on staff, I’m feeding my employees who I hope to retain on the other side of this thing.”

The circles around Princeton are also inter-connected beyond food. jaZams book and toy store has had many customers helping it fund and support causes around town.

“It’s always been part of our mission at jaZams to think about not only our business and employees but the community that provides us with support,” says jaZams Co-owner Dean Smith.

In the past two weeks, its customers have taken advantage of the buy-one-give-one opportunity to get books for their home and purchase another for the Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project. More than 50 books have been donated so far. The store itself, thanks to kick-off funding from a donor, has also provided all children on the Free & Reduced Lunch Program at Johnson Park Elementary and some at Community Park Elementary (CP) with books hand-picked by their school librarians. More than 100 children have benefitted so far, and this week jaZams is making plans to deliver books to the remaining population at CP. It’s also partnered with Labyrinth Books. Together, and with continued donations, they plan to provide a book to all qualifying students at John Witherspoon Middle School. At a time when library books are not easily accessible, their goal is to complete the other Princeton Public School elementary schools and the high school as well.

“There are people really suffering from the disease, but also suffering profoundly economically, psychologically, and socially. We’re just trying to figure out ways of connecting with those people in a way that we can’t without our doors open,” shares Smith.

The store and its customers are additionally circling round to benefit neighbors through the “5for5” program. A spin on the “buy one for you and another for a neighbor” approach, this option at checkout allows a customer to get some relief with a 5% discount off their order which jaZams then matches with a 5% donation to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). As of May 5th, over $600 has been raised for TASK.

The amazing thing about this circular flow model, is that in times like these we’re also seeing people entrenched in struggling communities circling around to help their own. Princeton High School graduate and Witherspoon/Jackson resident, known as K.P., is grateful for the numerous organizations working to help provide food and tend to the basic needs of many of her neighbors. She wanted to do what she could to also ensure their safety and has been sewing morning until night creating masks. She’s sewn 100s so far! Her masks, as well as those created through drives like The Arts Council of Princeton’s Sew Many Masks are helping. To assist in distributing them, she turns to Lilliana Morenilla, a tireless advocate as a leader with Share My Meals and the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry who works as Princeton Public Schools Community Outreach K-12. She checks in virtually every day to ensure her students have practiced trumpet, gone to their art class and completed their daily remote schooling. Then she ensures what many take for granted, that they and their families are protected from COVID-19.

“After I know they have food and schooling, I make sure they are safe. I touch base and ensure they have a mask or have gloves,” shares Morenilla.

When everyone has a desire to give and help, it’s easy for the circle to keep rotating. If you want to offer support, click on one of the links above or go to Princetoncovid.org for a more complete list of ways to help. It takes a lot of effort – mental, financial and physical – but in a community like Princeton, there is a natural flow that keeps us going round and round.

The Power of Connecting in a Technological Time

My son goes to sleepaway camp. This summer would be his sixth. For months we have been unsure whether camp would occur, whether it would be safe to send him or if we would even want to. With all the unknowns, his camp community has been there for us over the past two months. The camp staff knew everyone was at home and in need of human connectivity. Through weekly Friday night Instagram Live get-togethers, bi-weekly Zoom workouts or the Xbox NBA2k tournament for his age group, my son has been staying connected to Camp Bauercrest and his friends. And he’ll need it, as they just canceled the summer session.

The technological opportunities at our disposal have made this unique situation somewhat bearable. Like my son, other children are using it to be a part of their school, sports or religious groups and for adults, perhaps it’s allowed for local neighborhood camaraderie, keeping up with your morning workout group or enabling family reunions. The methods have changed from in-person to virtual, but over the past couple of months many have found these communal connections are what’s kept them going.

Staying connected is so important that in mid-April the state issued an Executive Order prohibiting all internet and phone carriers from terminating services for non-payment until the public health emergency has cleared. Whether one is going online and reading the most updated news sites, texting with friends and family on a phone or tablet or going “old school” by making a telephone call, these utilities have become the be-all, end-all of communicating during isolation. Those at home during the pandemic have also witnessed an amazing virtual journey connecting through video conferencing and meet-up platforms.

One never would have imagined Saturday nights, when most looked forward to a night out with others, could be fulfilled in cyberspace. Since isolation began, the opportunity to play cards online has become something Jessica Rubinstein and her husband look forward to. Hearts is a card game they have enjoyed playing with friends for years. They’d get together with their friends periodically, but the Trickster Cards app has changed all that.

“We actually play more often now that we’re in this quarantine than we do normally because it’s easier than finding time to get together,” shares Rubinstein. “We’re just not having dinner together like we used to.”

The app offers an opportunity to video conference while playing and also allows you to create your own private playing room. While the in-person interactions are missed, Rubinstein says it’s created a very genuine, fun experience and allows them to still have a fun night “out.”

For the school-age child, apps like House Party allow them to chat with friends or play virtual versions of traditional board games like Pictionary and Apples to Apples. Their schools are also working hard to create social contact. Dr. Patty Fagin, Head of School at Stuart Country Day, has been working with her staff to keep their school community connected while they teach and learn from home. Luckily, she says, they have always been a 1 to 1 Ipad and laptop school, so the children were already set up not just for academic learning but also to sustain social interactions.

“Today, if you look into any class and see the faces of 10 to 15 kids on Google Meet, seeing each other and talking to a faculty member, it makes a huge difference,” says Fagin.

In fact, today’s media platforms are allowing the show to go on, even if the curtain can’t go up. Google Meet recently provided an opportunity for Stuart students to host an evening instrumentalist performance and some Upper School students competed in a lip sync battle through a live Instagram takeover. For other interaction, some children have been working to rebuild the school on Minecraft so they can virtually hang out there. It’s a balancing act, doing so much via screens, but Fagin recognizes it is the main way for them to communicate with each other.

“The problem with this generation is if they’re not in a structured activity they’ll be on screens anyways doing something else that may not be as positive or safe,” she notes.

Across town, Littlebrook Elementary School is also trying to utilize technological advantages in a positive way for its students. Principal Luis Ramirez misses the days when he could see everyone around the building and physically going into classrooms to say hello. Instead, he pops into their classes on Zoom.

“The looks on their faces are priceless, I really miss them,” sighs Ramirez.

Traditions are a big part of his school community, so Littlebrook is working hard to maintain some. Though students can’t bring their parents to school to show off their artwork this spring, Ramirez insisted on a proper Art Show. The students have each created artistic replicas, interpretations with rainbows and other pieces throughout remote schooling with guidance from their art teacher, Mrs. Dell. This week, they were tasked with curating an art show from home. Students were asked to handmake an invitation, design a floor plan of their work and to display it throughout the house. The Art Show is now being shared for all Littlebrook families to enjoy via the Parent Teacher Organization’s Konstella App.

Later in the school year, Ramirez is hoping to virtually create another favorite elementary custom, field day.  It’s not the same as watching the children compete on fields together, but if they can coordinate a plan, he is thankful telecommunications advances like Zoom will allow them to stay connected through this experience.

If there’s one new word that will be coined from the technology that saved the day during the pandemic it will be “Zoom.” It’s become an acceptable verb, as people say “Let’s Zoom later!” the way “Google it” was coined as a research term years ago. And it’s no wonder, as the video-conferencing platform is said to have seen usage increase from 10 million to more than 300 million in the past three months. Though it was a reality for those that lived during the Spanish Flu, it’s nearly impossible for most of us to imagine getting through these times without having a smartphone, tablet or computer to connect us. Weekly friend Happy Hours, large birthday “gatherings” and more intimate catch-ups have all been made possible thanks to Zoom, Facetime and other applications like Microsoft Teams.

Rachel Lesser has a great reputation amongst friends for baking delicious homemade treats. She always shared her creations but had never thought to use video conferencing to teach others how to bake themselves. Home isolation changed that.

“A friend’s daughter wanted to learn how to make my chocolate chip cookies in quarantine. I taught her one day on Zoom and then it grew from there,” explains Lesser. “It’s fun to share my favorite sweet recipes with friends and their kids from all over.”

A week in advance she emails the necessary ingredients for all to add to their shopping lists but saves the step-by-step directions for the Saturday afternoon Zoom. One friend may overbake her cookies, another will learn her bundt pan isn’t actually non-stick, nonetheless friends from Princeton to Newtown, Westchester to Puerto Rico are baking together.

“It’s also nice to see everyone even if it is virtually. We talk, they ask questions and we all have sweet treats to share with our families,” Lesser adds.

Beyond the intimate moments, technology is allowing our hometown community to benefit via the internet, email and video opportunities keeping locals connected to others with similar interests, to what’s open around town, and to the latest news and information regarding COVID-19. One neighbor recently mentioned (from a social distance) that she had discovered a Drop-in and Knit group on Princetoncovid.org. So instead of knitting a scarf home alone, she joined a virtual social hour of knitting and sharing through the library.

Princetoncovid.org, a collaboration of Princeton Public Library, the Municipality of Princeton and Princeton Public Schools was conceptualized in just two days and launched on March 17, 2020 to keep everyone abreast. It’s been updated nearly every day since. Putting all of the resources and needed links in one place makes it easy for the public to learn about the myriad of local virtual activities and offerings, to reach out for help and stay on top of the most current rules and recommendations.

“We wanted to be as open and transparent as possible about sharing the data we are tracking about the number of positive cases and tests within Princeton and to explain why the restrictions that have been put in place are necessary,” shares Mayor Lempert. “Part of the challenge is keeping up with all the new information each day, and we wanted to make that easier for residents.”

Our local government has also been increasing its use of social media. Its accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pre-date the COVID-19 outbreak, but they have been important resources lately to update with COVID-related information, safety-tips and restrictions. The most current state and local information can also arrive each day to your inbox through Princeton’s Daily COVID-19 Update email created with Lempert and other municipal staff.

So much of our society has been physically shut down, but if you look for it, a lot remains virtually accessible. Whomever it is you seek to connect with, there’s probably a way to do it. So I challenge you to go online (when you’re done reading this issue!) and Google your favorite gym, you might be able to Zoom a class later today! Text your aunt and ask if she’s around to Facetime so you can see her smile. Create a Google Hangout with your college friends to share favorite Netflix shows and plan to watch that night, together (yes, you can do that, too!). We may be separated by space, but thankfully we have a means to stay connected.

The Pulse of Princeton: What Connections are Helping Our Community Survive the Pandemic?

Are you doing it right? Recycling 101

As everyone considers what they touch amid COVID-19, some are questioning the safety of leaving out used materials for recycling. Despite the concerns, recyclables continue to be collected in Princeton because the pick-up is considered an essential service. The recycling crews are protecting themselves wearing gloves and masks, but you could help them by recycling correctly and minimizing their need to sift through your bins. Crews have been instructed to leave contaminated materials and those that don’t qualify for our county recycling.

Turns out, many locals still don’t know the rules. Can’t all papers, plastics and glass get recycled? The answer is no!

RECYCLING REJECTION NOTICE! Have you recently seen this red tag attached to your recycling bin or to that of your neighbor? The Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), who handles the curb-side recycling pick-up for Princeton, found too many people were putting the wrong items in their bins so it has started focusing efforts on educating and re-educating the public on what can be recycled. If your bins contain items that are noticeably forbidden, when you go to bring them inside at the end of the day you will likely find they are still full and have been tagged.

“Until a few weeks ago, I thought everything that has a recycling symbol could go into recycling,” states local resident Edye Kamenir. “Why put a recycling symbol on something that can’t be recycled?”

Seems like a valid question. The answer lies in the fact that one town may accept certain items while another town may not. Though New Jersey has had a recycling law since 1987, it allows counties and towns to choose their methods and types of recycling based on a variety of factors. Is it a county-wide pick-up or run by the municipality? Do they require you to separate certain products (dual stream) or recycle them all together (single stream)? Where do the recycled products end up? Towns are also allowed to add detail through local recycling ordinances.

Our curb-side recycling in Princeton (along with Hopewell Borough and Township, Pennington, Lawrence, Ewing and Hamilton) is handled by a county authority (as opposed to East Windsor, Hightstown & Robbinsville which are operated by their municipality) and has chosen to follow the single stream method which allows bottles, cans, certain containers and paper grades to all be collected together.

As the costs for recycling collection have increased, the MCIA launched this new campaign because they feel the only way to get people to pay attention is to refuse their bins.

“We wanted residents to know that placing recycling in plastic bags or placing pizza boxes in your curbside bucket was no longer acceptable and going forward would not be collected,” confirms Dan Napoleon, MCIA Director of Environmental Programs. “We conducted an extensive public awareness campaign including, but not limited to, social and print media, public access TV, websites, radio, and community newspapers. I also met with various community groups and environmental commissions.”

Some, like Kelly Harrison, have paid attention. “#1 and #2 plastics can be recycled in Princeton! Therefore, yogurt cups are out,” she notes. “Anything with grease (pizza boxes, to-go salad containers) are out. Tin foil – nope.”

Others are eager to do their part to help our environment but are unclear of the specifics and haven’t seen the public awareness campaign.

“I am sure we are probably not following the rules as we should. We fill almost 3 recycling bins a week but worry that we are not fully understanding what should be going in the bins,” says Riverside resident Leslie Schwartz.

To understand what is collected here, consider two things. First, is it desirable? If there’s not a major market for it in the recycling world, it’s likely not collected curb-side. Additionally, it boils down to what is “clean” versus what is “dirty.” If the item is made of pure materials or able to be wiped clean, it is likely picked up in our curb-side collection.

When it comes to glass, remember this – all colors of glass food and beverage jars/bottles can go in your bin, but drinking glasses or broken glass must stay out. The broken glass is dangerous to the collectors. Additionally, the chemical make-up of drinking glasses and mirrors, for example, contaminates the recycling process and could damage the equipment.

If you have used tissues, paper towels, paper plates or napkins, throw them in your trash. The oils and other residues left on them render them unusable for recycling. Other papers, like those you print or write on as well as envelopes (even those with windows) can go in your bin. Hard and soft-cover books can also be included.

When it comes to metals, if they are pure or didn’t touch hazardous materials, recycle them. You drank from aluminum beverage containers/cans and fed your pet from a food can, so rinse those and put them in the bin. But the aerosol cans or motor oil and anti-freeze containers you emptied contained poisons, so don’t attempt to recycle through our curb-side program (they may be dropped at scrap metal locations). Our program does not accept Aluminum foil/baking pans either.

The most successful Princeton recyclers tell Princeton Perspectives they have stayed on top of the rules by printing out the recycling information notices, which are posted on both the MCIANJ.org and Princeton.gov websites (and at the end of this article!). They post them in the kitchen or by their recycle bins as a reminder. There’s also an app! RecycleCoach can be uploaded and at your fingertips on any smartphone.

“The App allows for reminders of recycling collection days and special events such as our Household Hazardous / E-Waste Collection days or Document Shredding events,” adds Napoleon. ”Additionally, if a resident is unsure about whether a material is recyclable or not, there is a section What Goes Where that helps answer that question.”
All curb-side recycling must be placed in the official bins (either green or yellow) to be picked up. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the recent Household Hazardous Waste/Electronic Waste collection that was scheduled for March 28, 2020 was canceled. The next event will be June 20th.
There are many questions surrounding what and how to recycle. So here are some other FAQ we encountered. We hope these clarifications can help you recycle more completely:

Q: What happens to plastics #3-7? Can they be recycled anywhere?
A: Recycling is driven by the market. #5s can be dropped at Whole Foods, as there is a small desire for them. There is no market for #3, 4, 6 and 7 plastics so they are not being recycled (municipalities that collect them likely separate and discard them).

Q: I got a red tag on my bin but nothing was checked off. How do I know what I did wrong?
A: In those cases where a tag is left unchecked, residents can contact the MCIA office either via phone or through the website and they will aim to explain the problem.

Q: Why can’t I put recyclables in a plastic bag or include single-use plastic bags in my bin?
A: Plastic bags jam the equipment at recycling plants. They can be recycled but must be done in a different way and not through Princeton’s curbside pick-up. Instead, you can drop them around town at stores like McCaffrey’s, Whole Earth Center and Craft Cleaners.

Q: Can we leave caps on or must they be taken off bottles?
A: Whether the cap is left on or removed does not affect its ability to be recycled in our program. The real issue is that leaving caps on can be a safety hazard. When bottles are crushed in the trucks, caps can shoot off with force.

Q: Pizza boxes are made of corrugated cardboard, so why are they not accepted?
A: The boxes get contaminated with oil or various toppings. It is very difficult to get the aroma of garlic, for example, or other toppings out of the cardboard when it’s recycled.

To Go Reusable or Use Plastic Bags? That is Again the Question

“It is very important to me to eliminate plastic waste…with Covid-19 you recognize even more how much plastic we have for everything as we wipe our empty plastic bags and everything else immediately before we bring it into the house.” – Sanne Karner, Princeton resident.

Eliminating plastic waste has been a long-time goal for many residents and activists. In New Jersey, the push to encourage reusable bags instead of one-time use bags took a possible step forward just as COVID-19 was making its way state-side. On March 5, 2020 the State Senate voted 22-14 for a state-wide ban on single-use plastic carryout bags, single-use paper carryout bags, take-out foam food service products, and single-use plastic straws (though straws would still be available by request). Now, not only have efforts been halted, they’ve temporarily seen a reversal in attitudes no one could ever have predicted.

Within weeks of this vote, people were told we need to contain germs. Don’t touch things when you go out and use caution bringing outside items into your home. This brought into question whether it might in fact spread germs if people bring reusable items from their homes into public places. There is no scientific confirmation the virus lives on reusable shopping bags though it has been found on certain surfaces days after exposure.

Princeton Health Officer, Jeff Grosser, confirmed the municipal health department has asked local retailers to temporarily promote shopping with single-use bags instead. “It presents that extra exposure point with regards to shopping. Right now people are already on high alert about who they’re coming into contact with and who they’re being exposed to. We’re trying to limit exposure wherever we can.”

McCaffrey’s in Princeton is suggesting customers not bring in reusable bags and those that do enter with them must bag themselves from within their cart and are not allowed to put them on the cashier’s belt or register area. Nearby, Shoprite locations in both Skillman and Lawrenceville are still allowing reusable bags but customers must bag themselves. And down the road at Wegmans they were allowing and bagging reusables for their consumers, however they just changed their policy and now also request customers with reusables bag themselves.

By mid to late March the governors in Massachusetts and New Hampshire ordered temporary state-wide bans on the use of reusable bags in supermarkets. And in Connecticut, the $0.10 bag tax that had been instated to encourage people to bring their own bags to markets was temporarily halted to instead encourage use of single-use plastic that wouldn’t be brought back into a store. The step forward for health took a step backwards on the environment.

Princeton Perspectives polled fifty local residents aged 40-50, raising families in town. Despite the recent turn of events, only one-third of respondents were concerned with bringing reusable bags back and forth to stores. Yet, outside of COVID-19, nearly all respondents support the need to do their part to eliminate plastic waste.

“Before this month, I had been making a real effort to bring my bags to the grocery store. I was successful about 50-60% of the time. I hope to get back to this practice after this crisis has ended,” shared resident Judy Kutin.

There’s also hope from many local activists that after the health crisis we’ll be headed towards a local ban. Upon returning from spring break, Princeton University students from the Princeton Student Climate Initiative in partnership with Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) were planning to get an online residential survey out to the community to help build support and consensus to pass an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags throughout Princeton. The survey never went out as those students never returned from break, forced instead into remote learning and social distancing by COVID-19. PEC and PU students had also planned to work on buy-in from the local business community.

“We were planning to launch the business survey at a meeting of the Princeton Merchants Association [the week of March 16th] planned by Councilwoman Pirone Lambros and to follow that up with students visiting local businesses to get their input via the survey,” said PEC Chair Sophie Glovier. “Once we had the survey input, we planned to move on to consider various model ordinances that have been developed and implemented by other towns.”

Hopewell Borough, in fact, used a similar model and approved a ban in January. After spending months educating their community and reaching out to local businesses, fifth-graders from Hopewell Elementary School and The Watershed Institute were able to encourage a unanimous vote by the Hopewell Borough Council to prevent local businesses from distributing single-use plastic bags. To assist in the transition, The Watershed has distributed more than 650 reusable bags locally and plans to offer more. The current pandemic is now affecting the start date, which was supposed to be next week on April 22nd (Earth Day!). “Due to the health emergency and the obvious shifting of priorities stemming from the COVID-19 virus, the Borough will suspend the implementation of the single-use plastic bag ban,” confirmed Hopewell Borough Administrator Michele Hovan. “While the ban is important from an environmental standpoint, this is not the time to add regulations and pressures onto to our business community.” At the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 7, 2020 the Borough Council will formally suspend the ban and discuss a new date.

In the meantime, the educational aspect remains important to get buy-in from the public. In passing their bill, the NJ Senate hopes to let New Jersey residents know that in our state alone we go through 4.4 BILLION plastic bags each year. While several retailers collect plastic bags for recycling, most residents erroneously place them in their curb-side bins where they clog the recycling machines. In addition, the legislature and other activists want the public to know that most plastics in general don’t biodegrade but just break down into smaller parts that end up littering our environment. For a state with a robust shoreline, it’s important to understand that scientists have estimated by 2050 there will be a larger mass of plastics in the ocean than fish.

Some in Princeton have been trying for nearly a decade to share statistics like these and enact a change in culture surrounding the use of single-use plastic bags. In 2011, locals partnered with Sustainable Princeton to start the BYOBag Campaign. And while it started conversations and the initiative is still promoted by the Princeton Merchants Association and several local retailers, it is now April 2020 and there remains no formal policy in town. The State Senate made a step forward, but the State Assembly still needs to vote, and Governor Phil Murphy would still need to sign. A bill similar to this one was rejected by the Assembly in January.

Another local attempt was made in 2014. Mercer County tried to move the issue forward with County Executive Brian Hughes and his Freeholders supporting Ballot Question #3, which would have created a $0.05 fee for each single-use plastic bag used by consumers. The question was intended to see how the residents felt about this issue and would have been non-binding, yet it failed. Princeton residents had voted in favor, but overall, the other Mercer County residents did not.

The Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) has spent this past year trying to regain momentum for this cause. This non-profit works with local and state agencies to try and promote sustainable communities and believes that if enough municipalities pass bans on single-use bags, the state will ultimately create a ban. Members of Princeton Environmental Commission attended an ANJEC training session last summer to learn best practices from other municipalities. They then passed a resolution in late 2019 to support a statewide approach but made a goal of developing an ordinance in Princeton if that didn’t happen soon.

Those Princetonians that responded to our survey seem ready for change. 66% keep a reusable bag in their car at all times.

“Eliminating plastic waste is an aspirational goal and I would go to very extensive lengths to get there,” says local Jim Davidge. “The challenge obviously is that it takes more than 30-40% of the population to elicit this type of change. The entire wholesale and retail supply chains would need to be completely revamped.”

As proven in our poll: while nearly 80% of respondents are inclined to bring a reusable bag with them to the supermarket, 66% of them do not usually bring one into stores like WalMart or Target and only 21% bring them along when shopping for clothing. One respondent suggests more stores should remove packaging options all together, like Costco does and another advises a plastic bag ban like New York state or a surcharge for using plastic bags could better curb the behavior.

“I think I would be better at it if I had no options,” agrees resident Lauren Raivetz. “For example, when we lived abroad, we had to bring our own bags to the store or else we were paying almost $1 for a grocery bag. I think other countries do it better than we do.”

Here at home, the state legislation underway would go further than any state in the union by banning both plastic and paper. It notes that single-use paper carryout bags use as much or more energy and resources to manufacture and transport than single-use plastic carryout bags and contribute to harmful air emissions. It’s important to note that the plastic ban they approved is for bags you would get at the checkout counter and does not include some used for sanitary reasons such as the plastic sliced-deli is put into, those used for loose items like fruit and vegetables and those provided at a dry cleaner to protect your clothes.

The inclusion of the paper bag ban kept a similar bill from moving through the Assembly earlier this year, so it is unclear whether this new bill will move forward. If approved then signed by Governor Murphy, it will take 18 months to go into law. NJ would then join California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont with a state-wide law.

COVID-19 is still here and minimizing the risk of spreading germs remains top priority. If swapping your reusable bag for a plastic one is weighing on you, there is still something you can do to help our environment.

Princeton McCaffrey’s Store Manager Anthony Sanfilippo says they’re still accepting single-use plastics there for recycling. “The bags go in a bin and aren’t touching anything or returned to the shelf or sales floor for consumption. So we’ll still collect them. The maintenance guy takes them away in a sanitary way.”

As soon as the local infrastructure makes it possible again, PEC and other local activists intend to continue their mission to reduce plastic waste and make it the rule of law.

“Princeton residents have been concerned about the pollution caused by single-use plastics for many years,” confirms Glovier. “I do continue to believe that the well documented negative environmental impacts of single-use plastics make it very important that we find a way to do without them.”