Sustainability Leader Profile: Ted Borer, Director of the Energy Plant

ted borer
Posted on October 8, 2019

What is your role and how long have you been at the University?

My title is: Energy Plant Director. This role spans both day-to-day operations as well as long-term planning. It’s a mix of engineering, project management, long-term planning, reporting, and working with people in the energy plant. I just passed my 25-year anniversary at Princeton.

How do you define sustainability?

I ask two questions to determine if an activity is sustainable:

  1. Could this activity be done indefinitely without something going wrong?
  2. Could this activity be done by everyone without something going wrong?

If both answers are a simple “Yes” then the activity is probably sustainable.

In what ways have you integrated sustainability practices into your work environment?

As a part of Facilities Engineering, my job is directly related to working towards our goal of achieving net carbon neutrality by 2046. We are always seeking ways to lower Princeton’s total use of energy and increase the percent that is renewably sourced. Last year I helped organize a six-week University program of experiential learning for faculty, students, and staff to engage around the health, environmental, and ethical aspects of plant-based diets. I am often invited to give lectures about Princeton’s energy program and what we are doing to reduce carbon footprint.

In what ways have you integrated sustainability practices at home?

Sustainability and environmental stewardship are deeply important in my personal life. I bicycle to work 12 months a year and follow a plant-based diet for personal health, fitness, and joy. These also reduce my carbon footprint and resource use. We switched to all LED lighting, added insulation and air sealing, installed shower drain heat recovery, solar hot water, and solar electric at our house – they turned out to be very good financial investments! Ten years ago we converted from an oil furnace to an air-source heat pump. When that reaches the end of its life, I plan to install a geoexchange heat pump. We raise a bunch of veggies and fruits, do some canning, have backyard poultry, and buy anything else we can from local organic farmers. I’m a Boy Scout counsellor for  Cycling and Sustainability merit badges. I’m actively considering buying an electric car.

What is one recommendation you have for someone who wants to take action?
The quickest thing you can do is to not eat meat at your next meal and reduce your consumption of animal products in general. This is a much more impactful thing than most people realize and you don’t have to own a house or car or spend extra money to do it.