Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News


POSTED: Monday, January 9, 2012, 3:55 PM
Filed Under: Biz | Tech | Trends | Wheels
Photo courtesy of

After a much-too-long hiatus, I was able to make it to a Green Drinks Delaware Valley event last week -- this one at the Standard Tap, where Green Drinks is the first Wednesday of each month - and as always I met some colorful and committed people who are trying to bring sustainability to Philly in various ways. Also, as happens sometimes, I got a couple brief audio interviews with some of these people.

Gabriel Mandujano has started a business called Wash Cycle Laundry, which pushes commercial laundering (and everyday household laundering too) into the Green zone. Their wash system has several efficiencies that Mandujano explains in this four-minute podcast interview, but the main hook for now is that all their pickups and deliveries are done by bicycle.

Listen for our discussion on whether bikes might someday also be used to power the machinery involved, a win-win if people could be persuaded to ride them for the exercise. Even more so if they would pay to do so. Hey, you never know, maybe Michelle Obama's "Let's Move' will kick in some funding to help people stay fit while they wash clothes!

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 3:55 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, December 12, 2011, 3:13 PM
Filed Under: Biz | Food | Hearth | Policy | Tech | Trends
A NASA graphic vividly illustrates how our planet is girdled in multiple directions by many small pieces of metal and machinery.

There's an interesting Q&A in today's Inquirer about space junk, entitled "Why we need a trash code for outer space." The danger it presents is not so much of falling on our heads (most of it burns up in the atmosphere) but of staying up there in orbit in perpetuity, ready to smash into something that may not be, but might then become, more space junk.

The green connection, of course, is that it's an issue of litter that has been created, unwittingly or not, and who should be responsible for clearing it up, i.e. cleaning the environment, which in this case is one of several orbits around the earth.

Most of the junk in question - tiny bits of machines that have collided and can do still more damage as they whiz around at dizziyingly high speed - is not a threat to us down here, but to other (super-expensive) stuff up there. And the scenario of their ability to become weaponized junk seems to have been largely disregarded in their deployment.

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 3:13 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Sunday, November 27, 2011, 8:13 PM
Filed Under: Art | Biz | Tech
Vintage Vinyl Journals use actual vinyl records as covers.

While vinyl is in the midst of a resurgence as a listening medium, there's still way more old vinyl records than there are hipsters to listen to them, and many old, previously cherished LPs wind up in the wastestream as their owners re-collect the content in digital form. This reflects some of the ambivalence a lot of us have about our old records - they have a special meaning, but not so much that we're going to try to get that turntable working again to hear them.

Katie Pietrak understands that dynamic and is capitalizing on it with Vintage Vinyl Journals, a new product that combines acid-free writing journals with covers made from actual vinyl LPs. "We rescue forgotten vinyl and repurpose it," she told me, adding that people use the journals for all kinds of things, including school notebooks, scrapbooksand other tomes that they consider worthy of a special package.

Pietrak stressed the high-quality acid-free paper in the journals and the glue holding them together, she said, is free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds - at first I heard this as BOC, and wondered what she had against Blue Oyster Cult records). In addition to their marginal eco-friendliness these items call us back to what the company's literature calls "a simpler time - when albums started with a pop and a hiss as needle met groove and thoughts were recorded pen to paper."

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 8:13 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, October 31, 2011, 11:58 AM
Filed Under: Biz | Policy | Tech | Trends
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."

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 11:58 AM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, October 3, 2011, 2:30 PM
Filed Under: Biz | Policy | Tech
Don't read his lips! Gov. Corbett's plan sticks to the letter of his no-new-taxes promise, if not the spirit.

Don't read his lips: Governor Corbett promised no new taxes, and in spite of pressure from environmentalists to tax the gas-drillers of Marcellus Shale, he has technically kept that promise, instead allowing the counties involved to impos a fee in the plan he released today.

As one outlet put it, this has thrown a "curveball" into the debate, with people who were ready to react to the governor's detailed plan one way or another now needing to re-check where they land given this tightrope-sized middle ground Corbett is walking.

Don't worry, though. At the end of the day, by which I mean literally the end of today, Monday, the pros and cons will be lined up and broadcasting their message loud and clear.

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 2:30 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, September 23, 2011, 3:18 PM
Filed Under: Art | Biz | Tech | Trends | Wheels
Art from the poster for the 2011 Manayunk Eco-Arts Festival.

Manayunk's Eco-Arts Festival is back again this weekend, with Main Street (up to Green Lane - so our headline is close enough!) again stuffed with arts vendors, music, kids' activities, an eco-car show and general enviro-education in a festive format.

I could go on about the event - and indeed we tipped you to its ramping-up developments back in July - but you'll find the main details right here.

Worth noting is (relatively) new mom Paige Wolf, the author of Spit That Out! and a tireless advocate for sustainable events in and around Philly. She'll be doing a "green living seminar" she describes this way:

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 3:18 PM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Friday, July 22, 2011, 9:07 AM
Filed Under: Art | Biz | Food | Tech | Trends | Wheels
Come on, folks, how hard can this be? We've already done about 30 percent of the work for you right here.

If you missed Manayunk's Eco-Arts Festival last September, or even if you were there, here's your chance to step up your game this year and be a star of the show. Well, one of the stars, anyway. OK, a featured supporting player.

The annual celebration (this is the second - last year it drew 30,000 attendees) brings together eco-minded artists, green businesses and environmentally-oriented community groups for a free event on Main Street, sharing resources and education about green and healthy living.

A press release promises that

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 9:07 AM  Permalink | 0
POSTED: Monday, July 11, 2011, 2:40 PM
Filed Under: Biz | Policy | Tech | Trends

In just four years, Philadelphia has quadrupled its recycling rate That is unequivocally good news and a credit to Mayor Nutter, who has been tirelessly pushing this issue forward since his days on City Council.

The Greenworks Progress Report for 2011 (PDF) puts it this way:

After years of steady growth in the city’s recycling rate, the Streets Department again recorded record rates of diversion in neighborhoods
across the city. In the first quarter of 2011, the curbside diversion rate was just over 20%, four times higher than the 2006 rate. Some sections of the city achieved diversion rates over 30%, and many neighborhoods have seen double-digit increases in recycling in the past year.

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 2:40 PM  Permalink | 0
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

    Earth to Philly
  • Also on
    Stay Connected