Peter Boughton is a 40-year resident of Ewing Township and Chair of the Ewing Township Sustainable Green Team. He admits that his volunteer work is driven by a personal motive. He is concerned about the quality of life for future generations and wants sustainability to be part of the conversation in Ewing.
Peter has five kids, four granddaughters and is pretty excited about the newest addition to the family, his great-grandson Ryan. Peter said, “We are all part of the community and now it’s time to do more at the local level again. We need to conserve resources and make sure Ewing’s plan for the future considers sustainability goals.”
The chatter in the Two Peters Diner in Ewing mostly focuses on sports or the events of the past weekend. But increasingly people are talking about the areas proposed for redevelopment and community renewal. How will Ewing meet economic challenges and what are the plans for a transportation hub to revitalize the abandoned General Motors plant and adjoining naval yard? With change in the air, the Ewing Green Team thought it was a good time to develop sustainability goals to help guide the community.
Community Conversations: Preserving Our Present, Transforming Our Future
On June 7, a group of 50 people from Ewing came together for a conversation. Community members, township staff and elected officials took time out — over four hours on a Saturday — to have a discussion about Ewing’s sustainable future.
“One of the many benefits of a process like this is to bring a community together,” Natalie Barney of MaGa Sustainability LLC who co-facilitated the meeting said. “Everyone has concerns and everyone has ideas. By coming together the town gets on the same page and can move forward with excitement and a feeling of camaraderie.”
She added, “Green Teams don’t have to work in a vacuum; it’s more effective to make sustainability planning a community effort. To achieve the silver-level of certification in the Sustainable Jersey program is difficult. A Green Team needs to develop the organizational capacity to move forward and a visioning session like this is the first step.”
In fall 2013, Ewing Township obtained the bronze-level of Sustainable Jersey certification and is now working to get points for actions sufficient to achieve the silver-level certification. By consulting the community on what is important to them, the Ewing Green Team can respond with a coordinated strategy plan that is specific to what the people of Ewing value and want.
In addition, the event was a low-waste effort. From cloth napkins to the absence of extraneous handouts and paper, to the lack of individual sized containers (e.g. sugar packets, individual creamers and tubs and jars of condiments, etc.) and even to the double sided badge with the agenda, the Green Team tried to reduce their use of unnecessary packaging, plastic and garbage in general.
$10,000 Sustainable Jersey Small Grant funded by PSEG Foundation
The Ewing Township visioning and sustainability goal development process was made possible by a $10,000 Sustainable Jersey Small Grant funded by PSEG Foundation.
The June 7 community conversation was the first step in the process. The Green Team will now take the input gathered from the participants and work to develop and prioritize specific goals.
A second visioning workshop is targeted for fall 2014. The community will come together again to review and respond to the sustainability goals. The Ewing Green Team admits that the process is hard work. But by having community input into the development of the goals, the outcome will be more valuable. The Green Team is meeting with Ewing Mayor Bert Steinmann again this week to report out on the visioning event.
The strategic planning process will help grow the Green Team and coordinate with the community’s interests to make a strategic, positive impact for the future. “We want to engage the citizens of Ewing in creating a vision for a very livable, prosperous Ewing that sustains itself for future generations” said Joanne Mullowney, communications officer for the Ewing Green Team, and one of the primary volunteers behind the visioning effort.
Ewing is a vital community in Mercer County; stay tuned to see how the vision and goals lead to a more livable and sustainable town.
The public is invited to attend the next Ewing Green Team meeting on June 25 at 7 p.m. at the Ewing Senior and Community Center where the members will report on the initial themes developed from the visioning session.
What kind of community would you like to live in? Tell us in the comments below.
Randall Solomon is one of the principals that founded and now co-directs Sustainable Jersey. Photos courtesy of Mark Wetherbee, Compass Black Photography