Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Green, greener, greenest: The value of striving

Here at Earth to Philly we've tweaked Mayor Nutter for his oft-repeated declaration that by the end of his second term Philadelphia will be "The Greenest City in America." At the United Nations Environment Program on Sustainable Building Practices last week he indicated that the goal may indeed be more of a rhetorical device than a competitive race to number one.

Green, greener, greenest: The value of striving

Mayor Michael Nutter with TC Chan Center founder Dr. Ali Malwaki at the Symposium on Thursday.
Mayor Michael Nutter with TC Chan Center founder Dr. Ali Malwaki at the Symposium on Thursday.

Here at Earth to Philly we've tweaked Mayor Nutter for his oft-repeated declaration that by the end of his second term (let's not pretend we don't know he'll get one) Philadelphia will be "The Greenest City in America." At the United Nations Environment Program on Sustainable Building Practices last week he indicated that the goal may indeed be more of a rhetorical device than a competitive race to number one. Is that a bad thing?

The Symposium on Sustainable Buildings was held Thursday and Friday at the T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Our mayor was joined by other mayors and leaders at an event "to learn more about the mutual global effort to make where we live and work more comfortable and efficient." The T.C. Chan Center has a track record of working with institutions around the world both governmental and non- to create more sustainable buildings, largely by consultation and the development of simulation tools.

Dr. Ali Malkawi, the founder of TC Chan, discussed the center’s work in building and retrofitting commercial and multi-family residential buildings around the Philadelphia area "not only to increase the efficiency of the area’s buildings, but also to stimulate investment and quality job creation across the region."

Mayor Nutter rightly crowed about the sustainability programs he has initiated here (some of which he had pushed for back in his Councilman days) and observed that “I can honestly say that I’m saving money, putting people to work and delivering a high quality of service at a very low cost." Perhaps a bit ruefully, he added, though, that "What they want is no cost."

The symposium, however, was about real-world scenarios balancing costs, both direct and externalized, with payoffs in efficiency, usability and sustainability. And to this end, Nutter seemed to recast his "Greenest City in America" pledge as part of a group effort: "I want to encourage all of my fellow mayors in the United States and around the world: everyone should set a goal to be the number one green city. If we strive for this goal, everyone will win.”

Wait, I thought it was all about being number one? Nutter addressed this. “It’s not about being number one. It’s about doing what’s right for our city.”

No one can claim Nuter has been anything but Philadelphia's greenest mayor, so it's hard to second-guess his strategy. With the news today from the Inquirer that Swarthmore won third place in a contest sponsoered by the Environmental Protection Agency to achieve the highest percentage of building power from renewable energy, and the various ways the borough finagled and innovated to get there, the value of competing in this arena is palpable. Even Swarthmore's leaders still say they're going for number one.

Obviously not all of Swarthmore's methods are scalable to a metropolis like Philadelphia, but it's worth noting that we've got momentum toward a greener economy and greener living here in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Sharing the knowledge, as well as the motivation, at networked events such as that at the TC Chan center can only help to raise the bar higher.

About this blog
Earth to Philly is a weblog focusing on earth-conscious technology, trends and ideas, from a Daily News perspective. We look at the "green" aspects of your home, business, food, transportation, style, policy, gadgets and artwork. If you have a Philly-related story, Click here to let us know about it!

The experts at Philadelphia's Energy Coordinating Agency answer your energy questions in our regular feature Stay Warm, Stay Green. Send in your question or questions to energy@phillynews.com.


Look for Jenice Armstrong to supply tips on green living as well as occasional columns on the subject of Green. She also blogs at Hey Jen.


Becky Batcha stays tuned for the here-and-now practical side of conservation, alternative energy, organic foods, etc. - stuff you can do at home now. Plus odds and ends.


Laurie Conrad recycles from her ever-growing e-mailbag to pass along the latest travel deals, fashion statements, household strategies, gadgets, cool local events and other nuggets of interest to those who appreciate a clean, green world.


Vance Lehmkuhl looks at topics like eco-conscious eating, public transportation and fuel-efficient driving from his perspective as a vegetarian, a daily SEPTA bus rider and a hybrid driver, as well as noting the occasional wacky trend or product. Contact Vance with your 'green' news.


Ronnie Polaneczky sees the green movement through the eyes of her 12-year-old daughter, who calls her on every scrap of paper or glass bottle that Ronnie neglects to toss into the house recycling bins. Ronnie will blog about new or unexpected ways to go green. She also blogs at So, What Happened Was...


Sandra Shea and the DN editorial board opine on any green-related legislation or policy. And we'll pass along some of the opeds on the subject that people send us.


Jonathan Takiff will be blogging mainly about consumer electronics - those things that we love to use and that suck too much energy. He'll spotlight green-conscious gizmos made in a responsible fashion, both in terms of materials used and the energy it takes to run them.


Signe Wilkinson draws the comic strip Family Tree, which follows the Tree family as they try to live green in the face of nattering neighbors, plastic-wrapped consumer products, and the primal teenage urge to spend vast quantities of money on hair care products of dubious organic quality.


In addition to these updates from our newsroom bloggers, watch for an occasional feature, Dumpster Diver Dispatches, from Philadelphia's original "green" community of artists, the Dumpster Divers. You'll learn about creative ways to reuse and recycle while you reduce, and about the artists who are making little masterpieces from what others throw out.

  • Dispatch #1: Margaret Giancola's rugs from plastic bags
  • Dispatch #2: Dumpster Divers in City Hall (Art in City Hall series)
  • Dispatch #3: Wild wood, New Jersey
  • Dispatch #4: Dumpster Divers award winners announced
  • Dispatch #5: From sweaters to colorful cuddling
  • Dispatch #6: Green artists retake South Street Sunday
  • Dispatch #7: Isaiah Zagar: He's a Magic (Gardens) Man





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