The Trenton Green Team, a coalition of Trenton residents, city employees, and local organizations that was founded by the City of Trenton, is gearing up for another summer of environmental initiatives to improve the city’s sustainable practices. 

Currently, the Green Team is focused on numerous projects, including tree planting, reducing lead exposure, cleanups, and improving the city’s walking trails. Trenton Green Team Chair Larry Paul said their initiatives value high community involvement in order to make the city a more sustainable place for everyone.

“We all have a stake in what [Trenton] looks like,” Paul said. 

So far this year, the Green Team has completed two cleanups, the most recent focusing on a section of a local highway. Paul said the goal is to have completed eight to 10 by the end of the year.

The Green Team also hopes to encourage residents to opt for more sustainable transportation methods, reducing the city’s reliance on cars. “We want to encourage bike-riding and walking—being able to use walking as a means of transportation again,” Paul said.

Guilherme Brewer works with Isles, Inc., a Trenton-based community development and environmental organization. As part of his work, he collaborates with the Trenton Green Team to lead a walking group from April through October. The group meets at Roberto Clemente Park, providing an opportunity for local residents to build a stronger sense of community by exercising and experiencing the city with others.

“By going on these walks and being in a group—the bigger the group, the better—we’re demonstrating that there are activities happening in Trenton. There are community groups that are active,” Brewer said. 

The walking club helps with other initiatives too, according to Brewer. While walking, members are able to identify areas of the city that could benefit from a trash cleanup. And by walking in large groups, he believes the club can act as a deterrent to violence.

Over the past 20 years, the Green Team has worked alongside Lawrence Hopewell Trails to expand the trail network in and around Trenton—an initiative led by Green Team member Becky Taylor. Increasing access to nature is a growing priority among sustainability groups, according to Paul.

The Green Team is also trying to identify sources of lead throughout the community, such as old pipes. Paul said members of the Green Team recently worked to remove lead contamination at an elementary school playground by alerting state officials of the problem. 

Reducing plastic waste is another way that Paul said residents can reduce their environmental impact. The Green Team does so by promoting an initiative called “Skip the Stuff,” which encourages businesses to reduce the amount of single-use plastics they include with food products they sell—such as utensils, straws, and bags.

“Sixty-six percent of the time, people are not using those utensils,” Paul said.

Even if the figure is lower than that, this initiative would not prevent customers from receiving these items—only require people to ask for them in advance. According to Paul, the idea is to help businesses become “a bit more conservative” in distributing single-use plastics. 

In addition to reducing waste, the Green Team is focused on increasing greenery, cooling the city, and improving its ecological health. According to Brewer, they intend to plant nearly 1,000 trees over the next three years in various spots across Trenton, especially in parks. On May 7, members of the Team and local residents met at Cadwalader Park to plant around 100 trees.

In order to bring awareness to the community about these sorts of events, Paul explained he is partnering with local media to increase coverage of the Green Team. One such partner is Jacque Howard of Trenton 365

“I work with businesses, nonprofits, the municipal governments—whether it’s different counties or different townships—to help them realize what they could do, shine some light on what they’re doing, and encourage people to get involved,” Howard said.

Through his work, Howard hopes to educate residents of Trenton and the surrounding communities on ways that they can get involved in making their city a more sustainable place to live. For example, he said simply educating people on proper ways they can dispose of their trash—and providing them with the resources to do so if needed—is an effective way of reducing garbage pile-ups in the city.

“Sometimes people say, ‘This is where we put our trash. We don’t have a can. We don’t have a bag, we throw it out here. And when it gets too bad, the city comes and they clean it up,’” said Howard. 

Through continued support from the Trenton Green Team and its community partners like Brewer and Howard, Paul’s goal is to build a sustainable city in which every resident has some level of engagement. As he sees it, true sustainability requires a strong sense of community.  

“As we do the work, if we don’t get this thing out here and don’t let people know, it doesn’t have as much of an impact.”

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