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Sustainable Jersey grant will be used by Princeton grounds crews for battery-operated equipment

With a $10,000 grant in hand, the grounds crews that work for the Municipality of Princeton and the Princeton Public Schools may begin to move away from gasoline-powered lawn and landscaping equipment and toward battery-operated equipment.

The grant from Sustainable Jersey also will help the town and the school district – with some help from Sustainable Princeton – to develop more environmentally friendly land management techniques, such as no-mow or low maintenance areas, officials said.

Switching to battery-powered landscaping equipment, such as leaf blowers, will create a healthier work environment for groundskeepers, officials said. They will not be subjected to exposure to chemicals, noise and related hazards.

Noise from landscaping companies’ gasoline-powered leaf blowers has been raised at Princeton Council meetings. Residents have complained about the noise, especially since families have been working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The residents have pointed to the hydrocarbons and other pollutants emitted by the landscaping equipment, which harm both the users and the environment.

Resident also have advocated for helping landscapers to move to battery-powered equipment and launching an educational campaign to encourage sustainable methods of lawn maintenance.

Transitioning to battery-powered equipment is also one of the objectives of Princeton’s Climate Action Plan, which was adopted in 2019. One of its goals is to reduce emissions from public and private landscaping maintenance equipment.

Molly Jones, the executive director of Sustainable Princeton, said the grant is an “exciting opportunity” for the town and the school district to change their own behaviors and to lead the charge for the entire community.

Princeton Councilwoman Ever Niedergang said the town must lead by example, if it is going to ask residents and businesses to change their approach to landscaping and lawn maintenance.

“This is an opportunity for us to understand in earnest what will be required to embrace practices that are healthier for workers and the environment,” Niedergang said.

The grant also represents an opportunity for the Princeton Public Schools to focus on its sustainability practices, said Barry Galasso, the interim Superintendent of Schools.

Students will be involved in the project – analyzing the equipment and usage data, so they may share the emissions impact of the proposed landscaping management shifts, Galasso said.

“We are looking forward to partnering with the town on this project and to providing our students with the opportunity to study a real-world challenge,” Galasso said.

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