March: Comings & Going

Report Shows Oil Trains are an Environmental Justice Issue

Marginalized communities bear a disproportionate risk in the operations of oil train rails in Philadelphia, according to the report “Environmental Justice and Oil Trains in Pennsylvania.” Released in February by ForestEthics, ACTION United and PennEnvironment, the reportstates that people of color and historically poor communities in Philadelphia are more likely to live in the oil train “blast zone”—the dangerous one-mile evacuation zone in the case of an oil train derailment and fire—than their white counterparts. Fifty-eight percent of the people living inside the city’s blast zone are people of color; 32 percent of those living outside of the blast zone are people of color. 

“These oil trains go through our neighborhoods, many to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery… but we can’t move away because we don’t necessarily have the resources to do so,” said Southwest Philly resident and ACTION United member Teresa Hill in a press release. 

The report found that 50 percent of people living in communities statistically vulnerable to environmental racism are within the dangerous blast zone, yet the blast zone is only 12 percent of the land area—showing that the most vulnerable populations are disproportionately clustered in the blast zones.

Healthy Rowhouse Project Appoints New Leader

This month, Jill Roberts takes on the role of executive director of the Healthy Rowhouse Project, a nonprofit startup created to keep poor Philadelphians from becoming homeless or displaced. 

Roberts served for 11 years as a community development project manager at Project HOME, where she led homeowner education classes and managed the purchasing process of vacant and blighted buildings.

“Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. By making the houses in our neighborhoods stronger and the residents in those houses stronger and healthier, we strengthen our city,” Roberts said in a press release. 

The Healthy Rowhouse Project creates financial instruments and construction assistance to help homeowners with low incomes—and landlords who rent to them—repair their buildings. 

Lonely Planet Names Philly the No. 1 Spot to Travel To in U.S.

Philadelphia ranked No. 1 on the 2016 Lonely Planet list of “10 Best Places to Visit in the United States.” The travel book publishing company recognized Philly for its craft beer and dining scene, and for hosting global events such as 2015’s papal visit and the upcoming Democratic National Convention in July 2016.

“This is an exciting and well deserved honor for the people of Philadelphia,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a press release. “Our city is unique, fun and appealing to a broad range of tourists and visitors, while at the same time providing a homegrown sense of culture.”

Southwark and Hungry Pigeon Bring Local Flavors to South Philly

Two “responsibly sourced” Fourth Street restaurants opened doors last month: Southwark (under new management) and comfort food newcomer Hungry Pigeon.

Southwark had a quiet reopening last month, showing off a few minor interior renovations including an updated paint and color scheme under new owners Marina De Oliveira and chef Chris D’Ambro, who purchased Southwark in 2015. A frequently changing menu will highlight seasonal flavors from local farms and producers, and the tap will include mostly Pennsylvania brews.“The plan is just to keep it local,” said De Oliveira.

Hungry Pigeon, which also opened in January, takes a “simple and straight forward approach” to comfort food, says Scott Schroeder, who runs it with longtime friend and collaborator Pat O’Malley.

Stormwater Plan Reports Positive Results for its First Five Years

Sustainable Business Network released an assessment of the local economic impact of the first five years of “Green City, Clean Waters,” the city’s stormwater management plan. Managed by the Philadelphia Water Department, GCCW addresses Clean Water Act regulations with decentralized, neighborhood scale, natural systems, also known as green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). 

“Conservatively, over the life of GCCW, public and private investments in GSI are projected to produce a $3.1 billion impact in the Philadelphia economy, supporting roughly 1,000 jobs per year and generating $2 million per year in local tax revenues,” said Lee Huang, senior vice president and principal of Econsult Solutions, which authored the report.

Snap Kitchen Opens in Center City, Plans Seven Locations Total

Snap Kitchen—an Austin, Texas-based, health-conscious grab-and-go eatery—has opened two of seven locations slotted for the area. The shops at 1901 Callowhill St. and 243 Market St. are the first East Coast locations for the chain, which also has branches in the Chicago area.

The chain sources as much food locally as possible depending on seasonal availability, said Marketing Manager Beth Minkus, and has teamed up with Philabundance to donate any food that won’t be sold.

“This is something we do at all of our locations,” said Minkus, “and Philabundance was able to accommodate for all of our volume and pick up from all our locations.”

Morris Arboretum to be Adorned in Yarn this Spring

Fiber artist Melissa Maddonni Haims was selected to decorate Morris Arboretum’s iconic trees, sculptures and bridges starting March 20 for an art exhibit titled “Wrapped Up,” which will last through fall—or until the many feet of yarn succumb to the elements.

Haims, who studied marine affairs and painting at the University of Rhode Island, creates yarn graffiti, soft sculpture, and large-scale installations with crocheted materials, utilizing mostly recycled, reclaimed and rescued textiles.

Scholarships Available for Energypath 2016

The Sustainable Energy Fund (SEF) will offer 150 scholarships totaling $150,000 to cover the cost of students and educators planning to attend Energypath 2016, to be held at Pennsylvania State University from July 25 to July 29. 

“We want to make sure that we provide people access to the kind information that could lead to the next big idea or development in sustainable energy,” said John Costlow, president and CEO of SEF, in a press release.

Applications are available through June 30 at energypath.org.