What is your role and how long have you been at the University?
My role on campus is Commute Options Manager, which really means I aim to be the go-to for faculty, staff, and students for any questions about getting to and getting around campus. I oversee the communications and outreach for Revise Your Ride, a series of commuting benefits focused on getting faculty and staff out of their vehicles and into alternative ways of getting to work.
I started in October of last year, so just finished up my 5th month here.
How do you define sustainability?
Sustainability is a complex concept and finding an exact definition that encompasses all issues and nuances is challenging, if not impossible. Of the common definitions, the one that resonates best with me comes from Paul Hawken, environmental author and activist: “Sustainability is about stabilizing the currently disruptive relationship between earth’s two most complex systems—human culture and the living world.”
In other words, sustainability is about finding and maintaining a balance between the lifestyles that we have become accustomed to and the ability of the planet to support those lifestyles for ourselves and for the rest of the current population, as well as future generations. It can be hard to think about the big picture and the long-term future when we are just going about our daily lives. In balancing a scale – we put a little on this side and a little on that side until the scale stabilizes –each of our own actions and decisions is part of the equation.
In what ways have you integrated sustainability practices into your work environment?
My role focuses on transportation demand management, which revolves around sustainability, as well as other cross-cutting benefits including effective land use, health and well-being, and safety. Our goal is to reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles (SOVs) on campus, as Princeton has some of the highest rates of SOVs among our peers.
Revise Your Ride provides financial incentives and other benefits for Princeton benefits-eligible faculty and staff who trade in their university parking permit and commute by walking, biking, taking the bus or the train, or carpooling/vanpooling. Additionally, I provide personalized commute planning for folks that are considering whether an alternative commute would work for them, or just want to know what their options are.
Through Revise Your Ride, we have helped over 500 faculty and staff avoid over 150,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent since the launch in October, which is equivalent to 8,000 gallons of gasoline. We continue to sign up new faculty and staff daily.
Beyond Revise Your Ride, I am a huge supporter of reducing disposable coffee cups and subtly (or not so subtly) remind my coworkers that taking a reusable mug to Wawa saves a cup as well as 20 cents.
In what ways have you integrated sustainability practices at home?
After 7 years of downtown city living (Washington DC and then New York), I’ve grown very resistant to the idea of owning my own vehicle – for both environmental and economic sustainability reasons. So, when I moved to New Jersey and started at Princeton, I challenged myself to continue my car-free lifestyle.
I certainly feel the lack of car more strongly now, but I still walk or bike as much as possible. I also plan my life around the bus and train and use ridesharing options (Uber, Lyft, and carpools) to overcome the “last mile” where public transit doesn't match up with where I need to go– as we suffer from some transportation “deserts around here. I also group necessary car-trips together to limit the times I need to use Princeton’s carshare program or a ridesharing service.
As a result, I’ve made a huge dent in my reading list, and am much happier than I would be battling some of the local traffic (especially on Route 1!). One added sustainability benefit of being carless that if I can't walk to buy something, I have to take a step back and consider whether I actually need it. This has reduced my impulse shopping considerably. I also find myself taking more time to research the things I do buy, looking for more sustainable options (often times when on the train!). My new goal is to phase out purchasing plastic, especially for my kitchen, as much as possible.