Saturday, May 30, 2015

Green works for Philadelphia

As Earth to Philly readers will recall from his posting days here in the Green section, Mark Alan Hughes was the main engine behind Greenworks. We caught up with him to get his reaction to the award and find out what he's up to now that he has returned to the world of academe.

Green works for Philadelphia

Sustainability 101 with Professor Mark Alan Hughes
Sustainability 101 with Professor Mark Alan Hughes

Last night, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Business Civic Leadership Center bestowed on the City of Philadelphia the prestigious Seimens Sustainable Community Award for its Greenworks Philadelphia plan.

As Earth to Philly readers will recall from his posting days here in the Green section, Mark Alan Hughes was the main engine behind Greenworks (if not its sole 'architect' - see below). We caught up with him to get his reaction to the win and find out what he's up to now that he has returned to the world of academe (at the University of Pennsylvania). Here's what he said:

"The best thing about Greenworks is that it has a place for everyone to contribute. Back at Penn, I'm building a whole course around Greenworks, a kind of Sustainability 101 for a few hundred Penn undergrads. In their small group sections, these students are working with Parks and Rec Commissioner DiBerardinis and Streets Commissioner Tolson and others throughout the Nutter Administration on service projects to move toward the fifteen targets. There is more than enough work for everyone to make Philadelphia into America's greenest city!"

Great that Professor Hughes is still building bridges between city institutions and sectors toward a common goal of sustainability. There's still a lot of work to be done, but Greenworks gave us a jumping-off point and inertia to move forward toward that "Greenest City in America" we all hope Philadelphia can be.

The full press release from Penn is included after the jump:

Last night, the City of Philadelphia received the prestigious Seimens Sustainable Community Award for its Greenworks Philadelphia plan. Previous winners were Denver in 2009 and Albuquerque in 2008.

The Inquirer has a story today on the award quoting the executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Business Civic Leadership Center, which hosts the award funded by the Seimens Corporation:

“The award is intended to highlight successful public-private partnerships and showcase national models for sustainable development. [Stephen] Jordan said Greenworks seemed to ‘have been designed with award criteria in mind’ in that it calls for participation from a range of companies as well as neighborhoods, and demonstrates ‘real concern with balancing the environmental interest with economic and social interest.’

That quote brought a contented smile to Chan Center Distinguished Senior Fellow Dr. Mark Alan Hughes, who said “Greenworks was always intended to galvanize and convey Mayor Nutter’s commitment to making Philadelphia the greenest city in America. Greenworks is a campaign and good campaigns are indeed designed to win.”

Dr. Hughes is widely praised as the architect of Greenworks, a title he turns aside whenever he’s in the room. “Greenworks was the product of many people. It starts with the Mayor’s vision, which was made real by a team including Susan Biemiller and Laurie Actman and many others. The work continues with my successor, Katherine Gajewski, and the team she is building.”

Dr. Hughes and his team spent months building the complex framework that sought to use and improve the work of cities that had developed earlier plans. “In Philadelphia,” he said, “we know how to exploit the advantages of backwardness.” That work paid off, according to the Inquirer story:

“The judges also were impressed by Greenworks' 15 measurable targets and more than 150 specific steps identified to reach them by 2015, Jordan said. It is a program that considers sustainability through five lenses: energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement. Targets include: lowering city government energy consumption 30 percent; diverting 70 percent of solid waste from landfills; and providing park and recreation resources within 10 minutes of 75 percent of residents.”

In his inaugural speech in May 2008, Dr. Hughes promised to deliver a comprehensive sustainability plan by the following Earth Day. (He missed that deadline, but only by two weeks.) In that speech, Hughes announced that Greenworks would learn from New York’s PlaNYC and surpass it. PlaNYC officials were in the audience, and thus began a friendly rivalry that has continued in conferences and meetings ever since, including at the Copenhagen climate talks.

The next bout will be later this month, when Dr. Hughes and PennDesign’s Dr. Eugenie Birch will present Greenworks at the New York Center for Architecture beside a presentation by the authors of PlaNYC. The event is on May 24th and is sponsored by the New York chapter of the AIA.

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

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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