Joking aside, I loved living in Philly. And, as an adopted daughter of the city, I am proud to see the steps taken by the city and my alma mater to beautify and green the town. I’ve followed two of these partnerships particularly closely:
- “Green 2015” is a plan to add 500 acres of green space to Philadelphia. This isn’t about one large park. It’s about turning Philly’s abundance of vacant lots and buildings into often tiny green spaces (community gardens, picnic areas, playgrounds). A Wharton team quantified the benefits of these spaces, from higher property values (and, therefore, real estate taxes), to millions of dollars in averted emergency calls, to $5 million worth of locally-grown produce and the prevention of 20 cases of asthma. Such green areas also reduce the strain on the city’s sewers, by replacing impervious asphalt or roofs with rain-absorbing grass and trees, saving potentially $35 million in storm-water management costs.
- At 14 acres, Penn Park is a relatively large blob in the Green 2015 plan for Philly that shows how these benefits come to life. When I was a student at Penn, the land along the Schuylkill River near 30th Street Station was an unsightly and dangerous wasteland of asphalt and broken glass. Through sheer determination and creative financing, the University bought the land from the U.S. Postal Service and turned it into a beautiful, safe space for students, athletes, and those seeking solace amongst trees and grass. High-tech lighting and a system of cisterns that capture and re-use rainwater for irrigation mean a low energy and water footprint, too.
Many of Philly’s fellow urban centers are making strides to clean up their acts: from groundbreaking sustainability and climate preparedness programs, to increased investments in parks, bike shares, farmers’ markets and green roofs. You might say cities are leading the way in conservation by showing that urban dwellers can reduce their impact on the earth, and help protect the land, water and air on which we all depend.
And whether you live in the city, or the country, you can do your part. To learn about small actions you can take, visit The Nature Conservancy’s All Hands on Earth campaign and pitch in!
[Image credit: Flickr user marusula via Creative Commons.]
Sarene Marshall is the managing director for The Nature Conservancy’s Global Climate Change Team. She holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and an MA in International Studies from University of Pennsylvania, and is fluent in Spanish. Sarene, a mother of two, enjoys gardening and gourmet cooking.