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Philly’s Greening Goes Well Beyond the Mayor’s Office

April 18, 2012

When Mayor Nutter announced his vision for post-industrial Philadelphia as one of the greenest in the nation, he got some deserved scoffs. I may have half-scoffed myself. But, as I’ve noted on the blog, he’s made huge strides, despite a budget crisis. In fact, just last week he and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced a landmark $2 billion plan for green stormwater management. All of a sudden, Philly’s a legitimate candidate for the greenest East Coast city title, along with perennial contenders Boston and New York City. Even better, the green wave has started to pick up real momentum in the private and non-profit sectors.

Philly-based mega-restauranteur Steven Starr is working on green initiatives with a local eco-consulting firm. He’s starting with composting at Talula’s Garden and Route 6, where there’s in-house composting know-how. La Colombe, Philly’s gourmet coffee empire in the making, is going to build the only private decaffeination plant in the nation, in a 15,000-square-foot Port Richmond warehouse. And they’re aiming to give it a zero carbon footprint.

Keeping up with the food industry is another Philly pillar, the arts sector. The Kimmel Center is incorporating energy efficiency climate-control features into its first major building overhaul since opening, which will also move its restaurant downstairs and pass management duties from Wolfgang Puck to local chef-lebrity Jose Garces. Meanwhile, the Barnes Foundation is set to open on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with its impressive new LEED Platinum certified digs.

A local non-profit is working on taking sustainability a step further and make Philadelphia home of the first urban “earthship,” a fully self-sufficient residential structure made from re-used and re-purposed materials.

Even the state government is contributing, making the rare Philly-friendly gesture from Harrisburg by supporting its large bicycle community with a new traffic safety law. The law requires that motorists passing bicyclists leave four feet of room, and allows those motorists to cross a yellow line to do so, where safe. The law also prohibits right turns that impede the path of a bicyclist.

Boston and New York, you’re on notice.

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