A blossoming vision for South Philly High School

What would it take to bring neighborhood greening, curriculum opportunities and fresh produce to Philadelphia’s crumbling school system? South Philadelphia High School may have an answer. This morning the high school, in partnership with South Philly’s Lower Moyamensing Civic Association (LoMo), launched a crowd funding campaign to raise more than $26,000 for the development of a campus-wide “Greening” Master Plan and to fund a garden educator position. The plan will lay the groundwork for a rooftop farm and greening improvements that aim to convert the school’s 5.5-acre urban campus into a sustainability poster child. 

In August 2012, LoMo president Kim Massare pitched the ambitious greening initiative to Otis Hackney, principal at South Philly High, and Roofmeadow, a Philadelphia-based design and engineering firm. Together with the school’s garden educator Molly Devinney, the team quickly crafted a strategy for turning the lofty vision into reality. The key? Partnering with a new online platform called Projexity, which uses crowd funding to raise money for neighborhood improvement projects. The goal of Projexity is to provide “a new and better way for anyone – from moms to mayors – to initiate and manage neighborhood improvement projects,” explains Marisa Bernstein, Projexity co-founder and a University of Pennsylvania alumnus.

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Re-Shop Flower Shop gifts recyclable bouquets to local sustainability heroes

Local artist Kathryn Sclavi sets up the Re-Shop Flower Shop with students the McVeigh Recreation Center in Kensington. | Photo by Michael Reali Last Wednesday, local artist Kathryn Sclavi braved Philadelphia’s rush hour traffic and the January cold in her ZipCar to pick-up flowers in West Philly. But Sclavi wasn’t going to a florist or greenhouse. She pulled up to the local Planet Fitness and grabbed two giant trash bags stuffed with discarded water bottles. It turns out the bottles are ideal material for her sculptured bouquets of “flowers.”  

Sclavi will be giving away the bouquets this Saturday at her pop-up Re-Shop Flower Shop. The shop will be part of a community paint day being held by the Mural Arts Program at the Gallery at Market East. However, the bouquets aren't for free; they’re meant as gifts for community members who are doing something good for the planet.

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From the Grid Office: New Year, New Website, New Issue

February 2013 / Issue 46Happy 2013! The past few weeks have been busy ones here at the Grid office, and we’re so excited to finally share what we’ve been working on.

We’ve updated our website to make access to our print and online content even easier. Articles are now sorted by topic and can be accessed through individual “blog” and “magazine” sections. Plus we’ve added a sidebar to give easy access to our latest tweets, podcasts and upcoming community events.

We’ve also uploaded the digital edition of our February issue, which is on newsstands this week. The cover story looks at the vacant land problem that plagues Philadelphia and the proposed solution—a land bank that could give the current 40,000 vacant lots real development potential. Other highlights include a food column on why the lowly Russet potato should be a staple in winter kitchens and a lesson in tree identification at Awbury Arboretum.

We’re looking forward to 2013 and already have some exciting projects planned—including a special editorial partnership for March, a new insert on local food, and Grid’s 50th issue. Our next Grid Alive won’t be until March, but expect some details on a special February event to be shared shortly. In the meantime, explore the website, check out the new issue and get ready for a new year of sustainability stories!   

Above the Fold: Sophisticated technology and inspired employees power a laundry revolution

Story by Molly O'Neill l Photos by Albert Yee ON A BRISK FRIDAY AFTERNOON, Gabriel Mandujano parks his bicycle and enters a large, clean laundromat at 48th and Pine. Three women in neon green Wash Cycle Laundry t-shirts greet him enthusiastically, though their hands never stop sorting socks and folding sheets. He checks in with each employee, taking a moment to help fold while he talks, then walks into a back room, where a computer system is tracking bags of clothing and linens from pickup to delivery. He stops briefly to answer a phone call then hops back on his bike to continue his rounds to two other facilities. After that, it’s back to the office at 17th and Arch to handle paperwork, bookkeeping and the other facets of a blossoming small business.
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Storybook Ending: A couple's romance with the past yields timeless pieces

story by Molly O'Neill | portrait by Chris Crisman AT PEG AND AWL, stories bring products to life. Every découpaged candleholder, leather book necklace and sturdy wooden caddy proudly reveals the source of its reclaimed materials. A chalkboard tablet is reborn from oak bleachers of the century-old Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., and finished with a leather pencil loop that first served as a World War II gun holster. A scrap of leather from the drawer of an 1835 summer kitchen finds new purpose as a journal cover, sheltering hand-sewn, archival-quality pages.

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We're on a Boat: Lessons about sustainability taught by a life at sea

story by Kirsten HarperMy boyfriend had always wanted to live aboard, so when he went to school to learn how to build wooden sailboats it seemed an opportune time to begin this adventure. We learned how to sail from scratch and bought a used, 30-year-old boat for a bargain during the height of the recession. When we moved out of our apartment in May 2010, I knew we’d be learning to live very differently. After donating all our furniture and many of our non-essential earthly possessions to friends and Goodwill, I was prepared to get by with less stuff. What I didn’t anticipate was the new way we’d come to view our resources.
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New Roots: Home Grown Institute offers skills, motivations for sustainable life

Imagine an entire weekend dedicated to teaching sustainable skills of all kinds—backyard chicken raising, beekeeping, composting, gardening, healthy cooking and home energy efficiency. The Home Grown Institute, whose inaugural conference is this March, has planned to do just this. The conference is tailored to provide attendees with the skill sets and motivation to transform their own lives through workshops, tours and hands-on experience.

Sarah Gabriel, founder and Wyncote native, envisions the HGI not as an educational vehicle, but as a “container” through which community partners—Weavers Way Co-op, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Friends of the Wissahickon are already on board along with more than two dozen others—can instruct individuals in the types of methods and approaches they can carry back to their own communities.

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Tony Croasdale: Welcome to my Green Big Year

Tony CroasdaleTony Croasdale is an environmental educator, field biologist and most importantly, avid birder. This year, the Philadelphia resident is blogging for Grid about his mission to observe as many species of bird as possible—what birders call a “Big Year.” The catch? Croasdale is doing all his birding via sustainable transportation.  

When attempting a big year, birders often drive long distances alone or even fly and then, drive to see one species. Huge amounts of fuel are consumed. In general, birding as a hobby tends to be highly fossil fuel consumptive. I want to show a more environmentally responsible way to bird. By carpooling, combining trips, using public transportation and human power, I believe one can still observe large numbers of species in a year. And what better place to do this than Philadelphia? We have ample public transportation and our region combines diverse habitats in a relatively small area strategically located on the Atlantic Flyway. We have one of the best birding locations in the country.

As I attempt to reach my big year goal, I’ll be blogging about my progress, both in observing birds and utilizing green transportation. I do have experience birding the “green” way. I’m part of a bicycle team that competes in the World Series of Birding and in 2009 my tram took first in the Carbon Footprint Cup category. But before I began, I made three rules to ensure I was keeping to the principles of a Green Big Year.

  1. I will only count birds seen from foot, bike, sailboat, human powered watercraft, or public transportation.
  2. I will not count birds if I flew, drove, or was driven to a location specifically for birding. For example, if I flew to Arizona for birding, I cannot count birds on a hike up Madera Canyon.
  3. I can accept a short ride to a birding location if traveled most of the way by an alternate means. For instance, accepting a ride to Militia Hill Hawk Watch after taking the train to Fort Washington. If a vehicle is traveling for another purpose, for business for instance, I can use that trip for birding; a conventional car must have at least three passengers and an alternatively fueled car must have at least two passengers. 


Sustainable 2012: An Eco-Expo to start a green new year

Looking to brush up on eco-friendly practices in the new year? Then join Congregation Beth Or this Sunday, January 22 at their Eco-Expo

A day-long celebration of sustainability, this free, non-religious event features more than 30 environmentally-friendly exhibitors in renewable energy, composting, agriculture, transportation and more. A LEED-certified architect, will be offering green construction and renovation tips at a special “Ask the Architect” booth and there will be activities for kids, like paper-making and seed-planting.

The expo is also hosting various speakers, including the keynote Michel Krancer, Pennsylvania’s secretary for environmental protection, who’ll talk about the controversial natural gas drilling happening in the state.

And don’t forget to bring your alkaline batteries and hard-to-recycle packaging materials, like Styrofoam, for the special recycling collection. 

For a full list of speakers and times, visit here. The Eco-Expo is happening Sunday, January 22, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Or (239 Welsh Rd., Maple Glen, Pa.) 

- Anna Louise Neiger

Come on, get happy! Grid's hosting a movie night!

Has the post-holiday, back-to-work grind given you the blues? Join us on Thursday night from 5:30 to 7:30 at the Trinity Memorial Church (22nd and Spruce) for a dose of cheer. We're sponsoring,  in conjunction with Sustainable 19103 and the Office of Sustainability, a screening (just an excerpt), followed by discussion, of The Economics of Happiness. The film features some of our big heroes -- Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Michael Shuman -- discussing the benefits of localization and the perils of globalization. Light appetizers & beer provided, BYO wine. Cost is $5, and you can buy tickets here.

Change is Coming: Philadelphia zoning code finally revised


Image via phila.govIn August, we wrote about signing a petition for new zoning codes. And looks like you must’ve stepped up to the plate! On December 15, city council unanimously passed new codes. This was shortly followed by Mayor Nutter, who on December 22 signed the legislation, enacting new laws to officially take effect in August 2012.

So what, exactly, has changed? Considering the last major revision of Philadelphia’s zoning code happened in 1962, a lot, including a special focus on sustainability. Here are some examples:

  • Reducing vehicular traffic and promoting walking with regulations for mixed use districts (so people can live closer to work), creating Transit Oriented Development (for an example), and allowing retail buildings to be located closer to each other in more walkable patterns.
  • Encouraging renewable energy and energy conservation by allowing small wind energy systems and solar collectors.
  • Promoting water conservation through required compliance with the Philadelphia Water Department’s storm water regulations.
  • Adjusting zoning to be friendlier to urban farmers for community gardens, animal husbandry and greenhouses, among others.

To learn more about zoning in Philadelphia and the new codes process, visit zoningmatters.org.


DesignPhiladelphia takes over the city this weekend

This weekend, the 2011 Community Arts Festival (CAFe) comes together to promote local artists and the importance of environmental sustainability. Featuring organizations from all over the city, there are plenty of diverse passions to discover: ceramics with Old City’s Clay Studios; Arabic calligraphy with Albustan Seeds of Culture, a local nonprofit that teaches Arabic language, arts and culture; or sustainable art with Recycled Artist-In-Residency, Philadelphia-based artists that use salvaged materials to create art pieces (and featured in GRID’s October 2011 issue, p. 26).

While part of the larger DesignPhiladelphia, a festival program featuring design innovations, CAFe is unique. The event will showcase Philly’s cultural diversity, bringing together artists and local businesses to share their unique ethnic programs as well as their commitment to environmental education.

Another DesignPhiladelphia happening this weekend is the kickoff to Better Blocks Philly. Inspired by a similar movement in Dallas, Better Blocks Philly is working to make streets and neighborhoods safer for pedestrians and bikers through creative community design. The opening celebration is this Friday, but runs from October 13-23 and features events like a movie night, punk yoga and mural painting.

To join this weekend’s fun and learn more about DesignPhiladelphia and its almost 150 events, visit their website.

CAFe, Oct. 16, 12-4 p.m., Crane Arts Building, 14 N. American St.

Better Blocks Philly Opening Celebration, Oct. 14, 6-9 p.m., 1702 Christian St.