Monday, September 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Billy Penn would love our green Phillies

The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability is as superstitious as the next guy.  As much as we love the city’s beautiful skyscrapers, we know in the back of our minds that William Penn just isn’t happy about having anything taller than him in Philadelphia. And so we have convinced ourselves that he has cursed our beloved sports teams.

But last year, when Comcast’s new headquarters building was being topped off, its developer, Liberty Property Trust, decided to place a statue of William Penn on the beam that Local Union 401 ironworkers hoisted to the highest point in the building, right alongside the traditional tree and American flag.  Now William Penn again reigns supreme in the City of Brotherly Love.

Comcast Center uses 40% less water than most office buildings—saving more than 3 million gallons in drinking water each year.  Its waterless urinals will save an additional 1.2 million gallons.  The building’s glass curtain blocks 60% of the sun’s heat, while allowing in 70% of its visible light—this means less energy is needed to cool or light the space.  All of these elements help to make the Comcast building the tallest green building in the country.  Go team!

The Fightin’ Phils have just secured the National League Championship title with a team that wowed us all with their spirit, their drive and their commitment to winning as a team. (Did anyone else notice that Manny Ramirez was the only weapon the Dodgers had?  Meanwhile the Phillies brought an entire roster of them.)

And like Comcast and Liberty Property Trust, the Phillies have made a commitment to sustainability—one of the first and the biggest to date in major league baseball. Last April, the Phillies announced that they would completely offset the carbon footprint created by the team’s power usage at Citizens Bank Park by purchasing 20 million kilowatt-hours of green power certificates (the inside baseball term is “Green-E Energy Certified Renewable Energy Certificates”).  This makes the Phils the largest single purchaser of 100% renewable energy among all professional sports teams.

If that’s not enough, the cooking oil used in the ballpark is recycled as bio-diesel fuel.  Carry-out food trays are made out of 100% post-consumer fiber.  Cups and cutlery are bio-degradable.  And the glass, plastic and cardboard generated every game day are all recycled.

And now they’re going to the World Series. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Maybe it’s not just William Penn who is back in the Phillies’ corner, but Mother Earth.

My conclusion is that we all need to be doing two things in the coming weeks: bow our heads to William Penn (either the visible one atop City Hall or the hidden one in the upper reaches of the Comcast building) and honor to his “Green Countrie Towne” by recycling as much waste and conserving as much energy as possible. 

I’m perfectly happy to be called superstitious.

Mark Alan Hughes is a Senior Adviser to Mayor Michael A. Nutter and the City’s first Director of Sustainability. Look for his regular column in Philly.com's Green section.

Mark Alan Hughes