Sustainable Princeton works toward transitioning landscaping community to cleaner practices

×

Sustainable Princeton is looking to embark on a new project that would transition the Princeton landscaping community to more sustainable practices.

The organization recently applied for grant funding from Partners for Places, which funds sustainability projects in local communities to promote a healthy environment and well-being for residents, according to Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN). USDN and the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities created the grant program back in 2012.

“They look to fund sustainability and climate action plan actions within local government. This particular funding that we applied for, they were looking for a proposal that would advance equitable sustainability actions or a sustainability action that enhances equity,” said Christine Symington, program director for Sustainable Princeton.

The organization won’t hear back on whether their funding for the grant has been approved until November. The minimum amount was for $50,000 for the grant and grant amounts can reach up to $150,000. The initiative would be a year-long project that would start this December through December 2021.

The topic of landscaping practices and gas powered lawn maintenance equipment rose to the top of proposal ideas for the grant after discussions with council members, the Princeton Board of Health and Environmental Commission.

The brainstorming of ideas would be for a need that the community had that would help advance a sustainability project, which also promoted equity in the Princeton community.

“What we have in our climate action plan are a set of actions: one to propose the health and safety of outdoor workers which includes landscapers, but also in the plan actions expand no-mow/low-mow maintained areas and reducing the use of gas powered lawn maintenance equipment,” Symington said. “We thought OK, this topic will help us move forward on these three climate plan actions.”

The three actions sited by Symington refer to the Climate Action Plan items adopted in 2019, which specifically refer to protecting and enhancing natural resources and advocating for outdoor workers.

“The project will make our town more equitable, because the landscaping community is predominately Latino and one of the most vulnerable community groups and are impacted directly by less environmentally preferable landscaping practices,” she said.

If approved for grant funding in November, Sustainable Princeton will move forward with their outreach into the community.

“Next steps after receiving grant funding would be to have a set of deliverables that have to do with outreach into the community. Initiatives to help with whatever problem that is trying to be solved,” Symington said. “The grant also wants community stakeholders to be involved with the process, so there will be a committee that would involve frontline community groups. Groups that work directly with the landscaping community will be involved.”

There will be guiding principles for the committee in this year-long project.

“We would work with the landscaping community to help understand what are the barriers to transitioning to more sustainable landscaping practices, while making sure we are aware of the health impacts and the financial barriers,” she added. “In addition, we would also be doing outreach to residents and the organizations that use landscaping services to educate them about creating demand for more sustainable landscaping practices.”

Reducing the use of gas powered lawn maintenance equipment, reducing the amount of lawns or fields that you have to cut and restoring them to more native habitats, are just some of the practices suggested by Sustainable Princeton.

“For the education component in the process, we would be looking to do workshops with the landscaping community to teach them about different equipment that are battery powered and what it is actually like to use them on a day-to-day basis,” Symington said, “making sure their transition is done in a way to where they are not negatively impacted financially and still make money and pay employees during the transition.”

Symington has acknowledged they will still need to figure out how to fund the transition and will work on those details as part of the grant.

“What we found through our initial interviews with some folks in the landscaping community and those who have helped with this transition across the country, a lot of landscaping companies put a lot of investment into the equipment they have now, several thousands of dollars into what they have,” she said. “We will try to replicate what other communities have done with buy backs or working with manufactures to help defray the initial costs of transitioning.”

If Sustainable Princeton does not get the grant, the organization will look for other funders.

“We will try to come up with the funding. We will also still do an education portion,” Symington said.