From the Editor: Creative Change

When the New Kensington CDC was faced with mountains of garbage being dumped on their neighborhood’s vacant lots, they came up with an ingenious idea: plant trees around the perimeters of vacant lots. Just the presence of trees stoically standing guard proved discouragement enough for would-be garbage dumpers.

One of the most exciting aspects of the sustainability movement is witnessing how it awakens creativity in people and communities. Look at the chairs created by Philadelphia University students from inner tubes, milk crates and mattresses. That stuff is junk, right? (We noticed that in each of the first two issues we had a headline proclaiming, “Trash Into Treasure!” Clearly this will be a recurring theme in Grid.) Local seamstress Reesha Grosso’s how-to on making a bag from discarded vinyl gives you the opportunity to participate in this trend yourself. While you’re in the do-it-yourself mode you can try your hand at crafting a homebrew, like our burgeoning community of local beer pioneers did.

Often we use concepts and activities for a single reason, yet the benefits can be many. Those New Kensington trees didn’t stop working after they scared away polluters. They keep rain water from overflowing our sewage systems and offset the added heat that plagues built-up urban areas, known as the heat island effect. The Philly U. students’ chairs and Reesha’s bag not only create practical, unique and aesthetically compelling items—they also keep trash from heading to the landfill, and can potentially create local and sustainable businesses. Next time you pick up a delicious bottle of locally brewed beer remember how small it started, and how empowering it feels to create something yourself.

When we needed racks to hold copies of our beloved Grid, we found Machele Nettles, a local industrial designer, who loved the idea of creating something new and unique from discarded materials. Machele found large wooden spools—used for electrical wire on construction sites—to create our more traditional sized racks. We also needed some smaller racks for the hundreds of coffee shops, bars and retailer outlets where space is at a premium, so Machele bought some records for 5 cents apiece from the Philadelphia Record Exchange and created a clever and sleek smaller model. Please contact Ashley Jerome ( if you would like either of these racks in your business or community center.

Creative solutions and waste reduction—if not elimination—are hallmarks of the sustainable world we’re moving toward. And we might see some more trees, and jobs, too.

Alex J. Mulcahy