The Times of Trenton

Group begins a conversation on conservation

Sustainable Lawrence looks to turn town into an 'eco-municipality'

Sunday, January 13, 2008

by Alex Zdan

LAWRENCE -- Try and imagine half a billion pounds of carbon dioxide being produced in a single year.

As Sustainable Lawrence Inc. Executive Director Ralph Copleman is quick to point out, that is only a portion of the total carbon footprint of Lawrence Township.

"That number is a rough number," Copleman said. "It only covers home consumption."

As calculated by Princeton University student Sarah Schiff, the number does not take into account car and air travel by members of those households. It was arrived at from a survey of homes of Sustainable Lawrence members, homeowners who already are trying to reduce their energy consumption. It's undoubtedly a conservative estimate, Copleman said.

With that statistic as a backdrop for the proceedings, displayed in a giant format on a projection screen in the Lawrence High School cafeteria, more than 50 residents gathered yesterday morning to discuss ways to achieve a sustainable future.

Working in small groups and brainstorming together, participants tried to identify trends and indicators that will allow people in the township to measure their progress toward becoming what the organization calls an "eco-municipality."

From more bike racks to locally produced food to the monitoring of water supplies, by the end of the meeting three hours later organizer Copleman was satisfied, calling it the "conclusion of the first step."

"This is not an ordinary conversation," he said. "This is a shift in the way we live together in a community."

Along with new technology and careful conservation, a huge part of sustainability is getting people to talk to each other.

"Sustainability is not rocket science, it's social science," he said.

Kenneth Najjar, a resident who works for the Delaware River Basin Commission, said, "I wanted to see how we can take some practical means toward making a change," he said.

He also said he felt the organization should attempt initiatives that will yield results in the short term.

"I just want to make sure this doesn't lose momentum," he said.

Wrapping up the meeting, Copleman talked of the things people think about daily in their lives: the size of their paycheck, how the Philadelphia Eagles are doing, the weather, the Dow Jones industrial average, their cholesterol number, and how all of those subjects shrink when stacked up against irreversible climate change.

"All of these could be exactly what you want, but we could go down the tubes together if we don't pay attention to this," Copleman said.

Sustainable Lawrence is a two-year-old nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to forging a lifestyle that does not endanger the ability of future generations to also live safely.

© 2008 The Times of Trenton
© 2008