Monday, July 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Greenworks gets a thumbs-up from the city

At the mid-point of the city's Greenworks plan -- three years after Mayor Nutter announced it, and three years before the 2015 goal of most of the initiatives -- officials gathered earlier today to retweak the plan laud their progress.

Greenworks gets a thumbs-up from the city

UPS fleet manager James Bright (left), city sustainability coordinator Katherine Gajewski and UPS community relations coordinator with one of the company´s hybrid trucks at today´s Greenworks event.
UPS fleet manager James Bright (left), city sustainability coordinator Katherine Gajewski and UPS community relations coordinator with one of the company's hybrid trucks at today's Greenworks event.

It had to be the feel-green event of the year.

At the mid-point of the city‘s Greenworks plan -- three years after Mayor Nutter announced it, and three years before the 2015 goal of most of the initiatives -- officials gathered earlier today to retweak the plan laud their progress.

Yes, I grant you, why would they gather to do anything but applaud themselves? And if you were giving yourself a grade, wouldn’t you give yourself a good one?

But here are some of the numbers.

  • Three new city parks opened and two more reconditioned in just the last few weeks.
  • 65,000 trees planted since Greenworks was announced.
  • A tripling of the city’s household recycling rates.
  • 428 miles of new bike lanes.
  • better access to healthy, affordable food for more than 200,000 Philadelphians.

“People are noticing. Philadelphia is gaining national and international recognition” for its greening efforts, said Nutter, newly elected to head the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The event was held at Sister Cities Park, 18th Street and Logan Square, which Paul Levy noted is a green case in point itself.

Levy, president and CEO of the Center City District, pointed out that a cafe building in the park has a green roof. (New Greenworks goal: Add 450 greened acres, for stormwater control and all the other benefits of greenery.) The building is angled to capture the winter sun. (New Greenworks goal: reduce city government energy consumption by 2.64 trillion BTUs.) Under a portion of the park is a system of cisterns and a geothermal heating and cooling system. (As in stormwater control and less energy use.) The benches were made from granite reclaimed from the previous park at the site, which had fallen into disuse and disrepair.

He said the park itself is an example of reclaiming a prime spot of city turf” to be used by everybody.”

Katherine Gajewski, head of the mayor’s Office of Sustainability, said than when she took over the position and the city launched Greenworks in 2009, “I wasn’t sure it was going to take off.”

Indeed, as I recall, when Mayor Nutter started saying he wanted to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation, he met a lot of raised eyebrows. What about Seattle? What about Chicago?

But, “from Day One, departments popped up and said, ‘we want to be a part of it. What can we do?’ ” Gajewski said.

So now, the annual report isn’t just a report. It’s a retweaking of Greenworks, which is aimed at helping Philadelphia become “a more sustainable, equitable and liveable city,” the mayor said.

The new, reworked plan adds 28 initiatives and remove 12 that “we chose not to pursue,” Nutter said. Four of the goals were updated with new targets. Two goals have already been exceeded.

One was to provide walkable access -- within a ten-minute jaunt -- to parks and recreation sites for 75 percent of the city's residents. Now, the goal is to provide that for all residents.

The other was to divert 70 percent of the city’s solid waste from the landfill. That last one, however, has already generated push-back from groups who claim that much of that is being incinerated, which they say is the least-favored route. They would like to see more recycling and composting.

For the first time, metrics were added for 15 goals that are considered measurable.

And, as part of Greenworks, the city wants to develop a climate adaptation plan that will identify vulnerabilities and explore strategies to deal with them.

It will take some time to sort through everything in the plan (read it at www.phila.gov/green), and I’m hoping environmental experts in each area of Greenworks can weigh in, sharing their perspective.

Meanwhile, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is hosting its annual sustainability forum on Thursday (6:30 p.m. at the Academy, 18th and the Parkway), to discuss progress the city has made. (More info and registration for the free event are here.) One of the topics that is on the agenda is the city’s partnership with InSinkerator to encourage people to grind food waste up in their garbage disposals and send it via gravity to the sewage treatment plant.

As evidence of the progress being made in many other areas, the city had a line-up of “green” vehicles streetside next to the park at this afternoon’s event.

Two groups had bicycles to promote the idea of a city bike-share.

Freedom Taxi had one of the new hybrid vehicles in its fleet.

The students at West Philadelphia High School brought one of their snazzy X-cars.

UPS had one the 50 hybrid delivery trucks it now has in the region.

SEPTA brought one of its 410 hybrid buses.

Waste Management displayed a new waste-hauling truck that runs on compressed natural gas.

U.S. Airways brought an electric ground vehicle, one of 133 it plans to have in service at the airport by the end of July.

And PhillyCarShare, which Nutter noted “is launching the nation’s largest publicly accessible network of American-made electric vehicles,” brought one of its new Chevy Volts. In cherry red.

To show their appreciation for Mayor Nutter’s support Gajewski’s team gave him a sustainability present. They knew he didn’t need another pen. But a mayor can always use another podium, and they had one made for him by Bench Dog Design using lumber that had been reclaimed from a row house that was being torn down.

“Very sturdy,” Nutter said, as he began his remarks.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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