Better Days

Illustration by Mike Jackson

On Dec. 31, I resolved to build the next year around sustainability. A lot of people talk about it, but I was finding that few people actually lived it — myself included. I wanted to set an example and share what I learned with those around me. So, I embarked on 365 days of putting each area of my life under a microscope.

It was a lesson in going without, and learning to love a slower, simpler way of life. To begin, I researched and swapped household products for more sustainable, less toxic options. I signed up for Bennett Compost to keep food waste out of the landfill, continued my Greensgrow CSA, started volunteering at Greensgrow, switched from PECO to Green Mountain Energy, and cut myself off from buying any new clothing, a tough feat for a woman who works in the fashion industry.

Read More

Rehab Project: Fishtown welcomes LEED Platinum building

The new YIKES storefront in Fishtown. | Image by Danni SinisiOn a corner of Girard Avenue in Fishtown sits a new milestone in green design and construction. The building—once a tavern before becoming vacant—is now the first LEED Platinum mixed-use rehab project in Pennsylvania. Platinum is the highest level for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The building's first floor houses the offices for YIKES, a web design and development company; the second floor has apartments.

The rehab project was carried out by Greensaw, the local sustainability-minded design and build firm. Plumbob Architects, Sustainable Solutions Corporation and the Energy Coordinating Energy also contributed.

As expected, the building is filled with energy efficiency features, such as spray foam insulation and water efficient plumbing fixtures, as well as energy efficient lighting, appliances, and heating and cooling equipment. But what makes the space especially unique is the integration of salvage materials—a Greensaw specialty. High school bleachers provided flooring and trim, fallen Philadelphia trees and palette wood created Black Walnut custom kitchen cabinets, and redwood from an old water tower was used for the façade and roof decks (sourced from Provenance Architecturals). The photos below and above are from the unveiling ceremony on Friday, September 21.

The YIKES office kitchen features cabinets made from salvage Black Walnut. | Image by Danni SinisiYIKES owners Tracy and Mia in front of the new LEED Platinum plaque. | Image by Danni Sinisi

Banding Together: Cutting-edge architectural salvage company Greensaw has taken the bold step of becoming an employee-owned co-op. Will the risky move pay off?

Can one imagine an economy in which labor hires capital? Where workers have a legal right to the profits and legal responsibility for the liabilities because they are the owners, where workers jointly manage the firm and themselves in a democratic fashion?

—William Greider, national correspondent for The Nation, in his introduction to The Real World of Employee Ownership

On a blustering snowy weekend in late January, a group of men and women gathered in front of a bedsheet and projector in a timber-framed cabin in Eagles Mere, Pa., to discuss how to become a cooperatively owned business. In between breaks for venison stew, toboggan sledding and heating snow for water, those in attendance heard impassioned speeches about governance and power. Debates over fairness, dignity, and responsibility flared and simmered. A sample policy and procedures manual was presented and picked apart as each person was asked to truly consider Greider’s question.

Read More