Expo hopes to paint Lawrence Township green

The Trention Times

LAWRENCE -- With the economy in a constant state of distress and a growing national focus on "going green," Lawrence Township residents had the opportunity to learn how to save money and the environment at the second annual Green Building Expo Saturday.

Sustainable Lawrence -- a nonprofit organization composed of businesses and residents concerned with creating a sustainable community -- hosted the expo at the Irwin Dining Center at The Lawrenceville School. The free event was open to all residents looking to learn the newest environmentally friendly ways to run their homes or businesses.

Lawrence Township Mayor Pam Mount helped create Sustainable Lawrence after a 2005 community conversation, a town-hall type meeting, seemed to draw interest from residents about the environment.

"We knew people were interested," Mount said. "And we started our own nonprofit. It was a grass-roots effort."

Laura Hyatt, the vice president of the board of directors of Sustainable Lawrence, said the organization is all about "limiting energy, thinking about how what we do impacts the Earth and being kind to it."

At the expo, residents also had the opportunity to discuss possible green home repairs, additions or maintenance with architects, designers, home-repair specialists and hardware vendors.

Hyatt said the current state of the economy does impact some, but not all, of the decisions people make regarding environmentally friendly home repairs.

"I think it's a 50/50 thing," Hyatt said. "Some people are realizing they can save a lot of money investing in green infrastructure, but a lot of others feel they don't have the resources to invest in that savings."

To help in this financially difficult time, Sustainable Lawrence is recommending a PSE&G home energy audit.

"You pay, but it comes back to you as a rebate if you implement (PSE&G's) recommendations," Hyatt said. "There are also a variety of state and federal programs."

Hyatt and Mount both stressed the importance of how the little changes can make a big difference: printing on both sides of the paper, programming the thermostat and using non-synthetic lawn fertilizers and pesticides.

Marty Johnson, the founder and president of a nonprofit environmental organization, Isles Inc., delivered the keynote speech at the expo. He discussed the relationship between cities and the environment.

"It's kind of hard to think about being an environmentalist and living in cities; cities is where the pollution is," Johnson said. "We have to think beyond that assumption and make cities places where people want to be."

The day-long event also featured vendor exhibits and presentations by energy and green building experts. Mount had anticipated the large turnout of interested residents and business owners.

"We had over 500 people last year and I think more than double that now," she said.

Mount has already taken a pledge to cut her carbon footprint, a measure on an individual's green house gas emissions, and residents all over Lawrence Township are making a serious effort to improve the quality of the environment.

"I bought a new dishwasher, my husband bought a Prius (a hybrid car)," Mount said. "People are interested in seeing how to go about it at a practical level."