As part of our "In the Spotlight" series, we’re highlighting exemplary Recyclebank members and their communities, and it’s Philadelphia’s turn in the spotlight. The city, from its residents to its landmarks, boasts green measures that make it an inspiring model for other communities. Learn how Philadelphia incorporates green into the places that make it special.
Sports nuts know that Philadelphia is famous for its die-hard fans, but their intensity extends way beyond fields, courts, and arenas: Philadelphia has proved itself super passionate about being green, too.
“In recent years, Philadelphia has made incredible strides in its ambitions to build a greener city,” says Mayor Michael Nutter, who pledged to make Philadelphia an environmental leader when he took office in 2008.
Seemingly everyone is taking part. City Hall has been following Greenworks, an in-depth plan to improve sustainability in fifteen key areas. Since 2009, residents have upped their recycling volume more than 67 percent (Recyclebank’s proud to reward Philadelphians for their recycling!). And while City Hall and locals alike are making strides, Philly’s cultural institutions are doing their part to make history all over again.
Take Independence National Historical Park, for example. This 54-acre park contains some of the city's most popular sites, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, and the Independence Visitor Center. The park has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to encourage the use of green power. The result? One-third of the energy used at the Independence Visitor Center now comes from renewable sources like the sun and wind.
Across town, a different sort of park hits a homerun on the sustainability front. Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, manages its eco-friendly measures via its "Red Goes Green" program. In addition to fan-facing measures like recycling receptacles, the park composts food waste, recycles its frying oil, and prints tickets on paper made partly from post-consumer content. Even the cleaning crew uniforms are green; they're made from recycled plastic bottles.
One of the world's most renowned science museums, the Franklin Institute welcomes more than 800,000 visitors each year. During construction of the brand new Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, contractors used locally purchased materials and recycled as much waste as possible to reduce the project's impact on the planet. Now open to the public, the Silver-LEED-certified building features an innovative stormwater management system that uses excess rainwater to water plants in the on-site rain garden.
"In Philadelphia, our infrastructure is changing and aging," explains Raluca Ellis, Climate and Urban Systems Partnership program director and environmental scientist at the Franklin Institute. "We have old sewage systems that can't handle the increased volume, and this affects the way that our energy systems operate." By diverting stormwater, the rain garden relieves some stress on Philly's city resources.
Proud to be America's first zoo, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals. Here, too, a rainwater harvesting system captures runoff and redirects it where it's needed, in this case to the zoo's restrooms. This feature, along with additional conservation efforts like digitally controlled water meters and a reduction in leaks, has helped reduce the zoo's annual water usage by 64 percent, or 398 million gallons, since 2008.
With the help of forward-thinking institutions and residents alike, Philadelphia is fulfilling its green vision and setting an example for other communities. Green actions begin at home, but when the whole community is involved, then everyone can make a big difference for the planet.