Launched less than a year ago, Sustainable Princeton’s STAR Neighborhoods program is giving local neighborhoods the opportunity to actively participate in building a more sustainable community. Now, participating neighborhoods have an additional incentive to act, with the ability to request mini-grants to support their activities.
“The STAR Neighborhood program was designed to give residents the ability to become engaged with and help carry out actions identified in the Princeton Climate Action Plan,” reported Molly Jones, Executive Director of Sustainable Princeton. “In order for us to meet the CAP’s ambitious goals, we need everyone’s involvement and participation. This program offers a fun and informative way for residents to jump in and play a part in reducing Princeton’s emissions.”
In a nutshell, the STAR Neighborhood program envisions all Princeton neighborhoods as Sustainable, Together, and Resilient. Participating neighborhoods select activities that reduce the community’s carbon footprint or strengthen their neighborhood. In doing so, neighborhoods earn program credits with the goal of being designated as a certified STAR Neighborhood for that calendar year.
“To start the process, neighbors first need to meet each other. Once relationships are formed and a couple of leaders selected, you can begin to work together to bring change to your neighborhood,” stated Jenny Ludmer, Community Outreach Manager of Sustainable Princeton. “If you don’t already have a block party in your neighborhood, plan one this spring and have fun getting to know your neighbors!”
The STAR Neighborhood program provides a list of over 50 actions to consider, organized into six focus areas: People, Energy, Water, Land, Air, and Consumption. For example, neighborhoods can earn points in the Air category by launching an anti-idling campaign or working with Sustainable Princeton to host an electric vehicle (EV) showcase.
One neighborhood has already racked up enough points to achieve Silver certification in the program, with two others aiming for Bronze level certification. Completed actions have varied based on the neighborhood’s interests. For example, the ‘A’ neighborhood organized a leave-the-leaves workshop to help neighbors learn ways to keep leaves on their property. They are also continuing to lead a hard-to-recycle collection whereby neighbors collect #5 plastics and old electronics for upcycling.
Eliane Geren, co-leader of the ‘A’ neighborhood, noted that “Sustainable Princeton provides us with information about how we can make our town more sustainable. With SP’s support, and especially Jenny Ludmer’s encouragement, our ‘A’ neighborhood has been able to choose projects that we were willing and happy to work on.”
The Grover Gang neighborhood promoted home energy audits among neighbors and began discussions about Princeton’s Neighborhood Buddy Initiative, while the Caldwell Park Neighborhood worked with the municipality to plant trees in their neighborhood park.
“We are a tight-knit neighborhood with an ongoing fall potluck tradition, so it was easy for us to take on a few sustainable actions,” noted Archana Nimgaonkar, co-leader of the Caldwell Park Neighborhood.
Sustainable Princeton is now offering mini-grants of $25 to $500 to registered neighborhoods on a first-come, first-serve basis to support any STAR Neighborhood action. For example, funds can be used to host a rain barrel workshop, a reusable bag campaign, or a contest for home energy audits.