These five sustainable landscaping design methods can be done without a contractor.Read More
Before embarking on any home renovation or landscaping projects, there are some key questions to ask, both of yourself and of the contractors or companies you may consider hiring. Of course there are the issues of budget and timing, keeping in mind that often projects go over budget and over schedule. But beyond those first steps, here are five questions you should fully consider before diving into a sustainable landscaping project, either on your own or with a hired professional.Read More
It’s a strange kind of irony: The green spaces that surround our homes often aren’t so “green” at all. While many city dwellers might not have a lawn of plush, green grass, homes on the city’s outskirts do. Rooted in ideas of class and respectability that stretch back hundreds of years, perfectly manicured, weed-free and vibrant patches of turf are still a point of personal pride for many homeowners. But the resources required to plant grass and keep it maintained are responsible for significant pollution.
Many lawn fertilizers and pesticides contribute to the slow poisoning of streams and rivers, and some pose potential health risks to children and pets. Irrigating lawns is a huge stress on the water supply, while, unfortunately, the soil in many yards is so compacted it cannot absorb natural rainfall and causes massive runoff. Then there are the gas-powered mowers and other lawn-care equipment required to keep resilient grasses from growing “out of control”—just one more way that our society is consuming fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow.Read More
I grew up without a TV. (Insert raised eyebrows here.)
My parents decided that, for religious reasons, there would be no television, or even a radio, in our home. They thought the TV would undermine what they were trying to teach us as children. So there was no “Three’s Company,” “MacGyver,” “Jeffersons” or even Saturday morning cartoons.Read More
When retired teacher Lynn Robinson learned a natural gas plant was coming to her neighborhood in Germantown, she felt a resounding “No!” jolt through her body.
“No, that’s wrong, that can’t be, that’s unacceptable,” she recalled in January in a phone interview with Grid. “You don’t put a power plant in a residential neighborhood, especially not mine.”Read More
Take a closer look at any small portion of the earth and you’ll find detailed ecosystems at work, growing and evolving all on their own, frenzied cycles overlapping each other and building more and more complex systems. Delicate, but balanced. Fragile, but resilient. As humanity develops and expands, it’s all too common to find that these passages, the vast and the microscopic, have become battlegrounds between the developmental pushes of modern humans and those who would maintain the precious environmental balance that keeps the planet intact. One of those battles is fought every day up and down the Delaware River, led by the riverkeeper herself, Maya van Rossum.
Early one afternoon, I received a text from van Rossum: “I am in midst of a big problem.”Read More
Walk out of your rowhouse and there they are, incessantly cheeping from the eaves. Outside your office they’ll peck crumbs off the sidewalk or catch a quick bath in a street puddle before the next tire rolls through. Eat lunch on a park bench, and they will watch with their little heads cocked to the side, waiting for you to drop a crumb. The house sparrow “is the default little brown bird you see on street corners and edges of yards and stuff,” explained George Armistead, president of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and co-founder of Bird Philly.
It’s hard to imagine now, but for the first 200 years of Philadelphia’s history, there were no house sparrows. The Eurasian birds (our native sparrows look similar but are unrelated) were intentionally imported in the mid-to-late 1800s to fight urban tree pests. The first releases were in Portland, Maine; New York; and Boston, but in 1869 Philadelphia got in on the act. As Philadelphia’s Thomas Gentry described in his 1878 book, “The House Sparrow at Home and Abroad,” Philadelphians had been desperate for a solution to an infestation of inchworms. John Bardsley, aka “Sparrow Jack,” a Germantown lawyer originally from England, offered to bring some house sparrows back from a visit to his home village. City Council took him up on the offer, and in March he returned with more than 1,000.Read More
When Russell Meddin began reading about Mobike in April 2016, he felt he’d come across something big. The private bike-sharing company had begun serving Chinese cities without the use of docking stations.
Rather than renting a bicycle from a quarter-block-sized station, and returning it to one, Mobike allows users to leave their bicycles anywhere.Read More
As a consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, Christine Dolle’s job included urging Congress to support environmental legislation. She has experienced her share of successes as well as fruitless efforts with legislators who won’t oppose even the most extreme anti-environmental measures.
So, in fall 2017, when she heard about the nomination of Michael Dourson to become the Environmental Protection Agency’s top chemical safety official, she stood with Moms Clean Air Force to advocate for his defeat.Read More
Propped up in my cousin’s casket were two baseball cards—Brad Lidge and Dave Hollins, if you are a sports fan. Sean had forgone the typical burial suit and chose instead to wear a gray Phillies hoodie.
Much to my regret, I didn’t know my cousin well. In retrospect, his life had many parallels to my own. Only about a hundred days separated our births. He studied journalism in college, and started his own business. He was a dad. And he was an avid sports fan.Read More
Nakia Maples, better known as Philly Plant Guy, has around 200 plants in his South Philly rowhouse. They're mostly tropicals like palms, philodendrons and long, trailing pothos in hanging baskets. In his “plant room”—where the only unoccupied space is a small sofa—a fountain gurgles away, and humidity-loving ferns hang above. A turtle swims in a fish tank in one corner; on the other side of the room, carnivorous plants like pitchers and sundews stay steamy and moist in glass fish tanks. Visitors—who may contact Maples through social media and request a quiet session in the plant room when they need some chillout time—are asked to sign the guest book.
Maples works as a stagehand, setting up and breaking down shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (including this month’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which is always a boon to his collection). His first plant was a simple pothos and is still one of his favorites. But once he was hooked, he went straight to carnivorous plants, some of the most challenging to raise in this climate.Read More
Welcome to Action Mom, a space where I will share my experiences advocating for change locally and globally. Certainly, wanting to make the world a better and safer place is by no means parent-exclusive. But the responsibility of protecting tiny little lives—in my case a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old—often spurs some dramatic action.
As parents, we often see concerning things and think, “Someone should really do something about that.” I have a habit of volunteering to be that someone. As a result, sometimes I get stuff done.Read More
It started with a blank wall that needed a pigeon… or a rubber duck. Tattoo artist and muralist Evan Lovett could see the wall from the window of the Philadelphia Tattoo Collective where he worked in Kensington, just below the Berks El stop.
“I got really sick of staring at it, since every time I see a blank wall I just imagine what could be on it,” Lovett said. “And the shape of this wall just perfectly fit a pigeon, or a big rubber duck, but I wanted to make a pigeon.”Read More
When a conversation becomes as extensive as the one surrounding climate change, it can be difficult to remember where it started. Granted, it would be pretty hard to isolate a single point of origin for an entire field of study, developed by decades of observation and research. However, when attempting to identify the moment when climate change became a global conversation, one possible catalyst would be the publication of author and environmentalist Bill McKibben’s 1989 book “The End of Nature.” Considered to be the first book about climate change for a general audience, “The End of Nature” helped spread the idea—from the scientific community to the world at large—that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions affect global weather patterns.
Since then, McKibben has written a dozen books about environmental issues as well as many articles and columns for publications such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic.Read More
It sure seems generous and altruistic to take care of a stray cat. It is, on the face of it, a noble activity. Confronting the consequences, however, isn’t easy.
Birds, small mammals, butterflies—all can end up in the jaws of a domestic cat. Even well-fed domestic cats keep killing smaller creatures for fun, as cat owners know. Hunting might be a natural cat behavior, but there is nothing natural about how our house cats hunt. We’re talking about an exotic species in the Americas that has not evolved alongside our wildlife. And of course we feed cats, boosting their population densities far higher than anything our native critters ever see from natural predators. The effect is disastrous, and a robust body of scientific research backs this up. The domestic cat is responsible for killing at least 1.3 billion birds and at least 6.3 billion mammals in the contiguous United States every year, according to a 2013 study published in the science journal Nature Communications. Outdoor cats’ habits vary, but on average each one kills about 24 birds and 160 mammals per year. And there are a lot of unowned cats in Philadelphia (not counting the pets allowed outside)—estimates range higher than 300,000. Even if we make the conservative assumption that our urban cats have less killing opportunity than their rural counterparts, that’s still a lot of dead birds and bunnies—a lot of wildlife that Philadelphians won’t experience.Read More
Heritage Farm are using Korean natural farming methods to improve the fertility of their soil and increase the farm’s output.Read More
In and around our fine city, CSAs are so commonplace (a wonderful thing!) that we almost considered skipping an explanation of what those initials even stand for. But for those new to the concept, and even just as a reminder for those of us who dutifully pick up our cardboard boxes every week, here goes: CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It’s a seasonal—sometimes yearlong—subscription to a farm or producer, which ensures them a steady cash flow throughout the highs and lows of the growing season and hooks the customer up with weekly deliveries or pickups of seasonal fruits, veggies and other tasty things to eat. It’s a way that, as a society, we can help independent farmers not just stay afloat, but actually thrive in the face of Big Ag. Amid a growing economy of subscription-based businesses, “CSA” has become a bit of a buzzword, and we urge you not to lose the true meaning of what it is: a symbiotic partnership between member and farmer.Read More
Hilary Hamilton, a founding teacher at Science Leadership Academy Middle School located in Powelton Village, is leading an exuberant army of young students sporting headphones through their neighborhood on an unusually warm December day. Like new shoots fooled by a hint of spring, they’re eager to display the fruit of their learning. Along with teachers, family members and community members, they are embarking on a walking tour of the school’s neighborhood that includes podcasts explaining the significance of historical sites in their neighborhood. Each podcast was researched and recorded entirely by students from Hamilton’s and fellow humanities teacher Sarah Bower-Grieco’s classes.
“The Bravery in the Neighborhood Project was meant to combine situated bravery in history with situated bravery in yourself,” Hamilton says.Read More
When I told my friends I would be switching schools, they were stunned. Last year, I chose to transfer from a “high-performing,” well-resourced suburban high school to attend an urban public school in Philadelphia for my junior year. I didn’t get kicked out, and I didn’t fail out. I actually made this choice because I believed it would better prepare me for life.
Like a lot of other families, my parents moved to a “great” school district when I began kindergarten. I flourished in school—I was reading novels at a young age, taking advanced math in middle school and had an active social life. My teachers loved me and my parents were proud.Read More
Going to camp can help turn the lazy days of summer into stimulating experiences filled with learning and adventure. Not only do these programs present a wonderful chance for kids to try something new, they also implement skills and foster friendships that will last a lifetime.
For many kids, camp is one of the first times away from their family or daily social environment, making it a great opportunity to practice decision-making skills in a supportive setting. Being able to make choices is an excellent way for kids to develop confidence and independence—both valuable traits to acquire at a young age. Additionally, learning how to achieve something new as a group helps build camaraderie rather than competition.Read More