All of us can help contribute to sustainable culture by making wise consumer choices—and more importantly by choosing reduce our consumption.
In this section, you’ll find helpful resources that can help you make small and large changes toward living more sustainability, whether it’s cutting down on your energy use, buying sustainably produced food, or recycling as much as you possibly can. What individuals do on a daily basis does make a difference. The resources listed on these pages are by no means comprehensive, but they will give you a start to thinking about living in a more environmentally sensitive fashion.
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The Building Blocks of Sustainable Communities
Commercial buildings consume 40% of energy and produce 40% of the waste in the United States. The trend toward green buildings is both environmentally responsible and financially sensible. Whether you are constructing a new building or renovating an old one, green building techniques can create more comfortable, healthier structures that save energy and money.
US Green Building Council
National coalition working to promote buildings that are environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. Working to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated. The US Green Building Council operates on a regional level through its many chapters. (See Regional listing below)
US Environmental Protection Agency: Green Building
A compendium of research and resources on most aspects of Green Building, waste reduction, and environmentally sound community development.
Green Builder’s Sustainable Building Sourcebook features extensive topic-by-topic information on green design, appliances, and building materials. This is a useful resource for anyone constructing or purchasing a new house or just making minor improvements.
Green Home Guide
The Green Home Guide functions like a green Consumer Reports, helping buyers choose eco-friendly products from paint varnishes to mattresses. Visitors can find energy-saving tips, a directory of builders and suppliers in their area, and “how-to” reports on renovating and building.
Philadelphia Regional Resources:
Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC)
11 North 6th Street, 6th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106-1590
The DVGBC fosters cooperation and collaboration among organizations and building professionals dedicated to sustainability and the built environment. Their website is a storehouse of information on local green resources.
Sustainable Philadelphia is a coalition of local partners working to make Philadelphia the “greenest, most livable city in America.” Their website contains information on sustainability projects and many links to local sustainability resources.
Philadelphia University’s Consortium for Sustainable Design and Research
4145 Station Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127
The consortium is dedicated to sustainable design, research, and education for the built environment. They provide books and materials on green building principals and materials, and design professionals are available by appointment for a 45 minute free review of your green design projects. A heliodon sun study machine is also on site. It calculates sun angles at any time of day in any location in the world, which helps building professionals best use the natural light and heat of the sun in order to design energy efficient spaces.
How You Get from Here to There Makes a Difference.
Buying a hybrid or fuel-efficient car is important, but using alternative forms of transportation has an even greater impact. Consider walking, biking, or taking mass transit each time you reach for your car keys.
When making long trips consider traveling by rail or bus.
Visit Amtrak, Greyhound, or look for regional bus carriers. A growing number of inexpensive bus carriers are linking cities on the east and west coast, often referred to as the “Chinatown Bus.” Check the internet for carriers in your area.
If you do drive: share!
ZipCar is the largest carshare company in the country. For an annual fee, members can use a car for an hour, a day, a week in any of ZipCar’s locations. Reserve online and pick up your car when you need it. They even pay for gas.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advocacy
Besides taking mass transit (where possible) try walking and biking. Many municipalities are supported by bicycle coalitions, or may have bike and pedestrian maps available for trip planning. Use the internet to search on “your city” + “bicycle coalition.” Also check with your state’s Department of Transportation for bike and ped maps.
Philadelphia Regional Resources:
Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities
The Clean Cities campaign supports efforts to use alternative fuels to reduce carbon emissions. The website contains information on types of alternative fuels, how they are used, how local consumers can purchase them, and how to obtain grants for alternative fuel cars.
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia
100 South Broad St, Suite 1355, Philadelphia, PA 19110
25,000 Philadelphians ride their bikes to work and the Bicycle Coalition is here to support them. The coalition advocates for better paths and roadways, train accommodations, and bike safety. It also offers a one-day Urban Cycling Workshop for anyone who feels nervous about biking in the city.
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA)
Septa’s website provides schedules for all of its services—rails, buses, trolleys, and subways. SEPTA offers many convenient, little known services such as bike accommodation and roundtrip tickets to New York City via New Jersey Transit for $30.
A locally organized car sharing group, similar to Zip Car.
Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy
Conventional sources of energy like oil and coal are dirty and unsustainable; they pollute the air and water and contribute to global warming. Many consumers are helping to stem the climate crisis by reducing energy usage and purchasing renewable sources of energy for homes, businesses, and vehicles.
Home Energy Magazine offers information on energy efficiency in homes. A “Do-It Yourself” section includes instructions for many energy-saving techniques; it also provides information to counter common “energy myths” that waste resources and cost consumers extra money.
This one was sent to us by a high school student who was using our page as a reference for an assignment.
Backed by the EPA, the Energy Star program helps consumers choose products that are energy efficient. When buying a new refrigerator, dishwasher, printer, dryer, or any other appliance, make sure you see the Energy Star logo. Their website provides businesses and homeowners with information on products, building, energy star certification, and energy-saving tips. An interactive home illustrates the many ways in which homeowners can improve efficiency.
Renew US is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing alternatives to carbon-emitting energy sources, allowing consumers to purchase clean, renewable energy from wind or solar. Its website can direct you to buy green energy for your home.
Although you might not have the time or resources to buy a hybrid car or a green home, you can still reduce your personal carbon footprint by purchasing renewable energy credits. Native energy makes it possible for an individual, family, or business to become completely “carbon neutral.” The website provides an easy-to-use personal emissions calculator and then allows you to choose how much of your own carbon contribution you’d like to “offset.” Visitors may offset emissions from travel or homes through small monthly payments. A partner organization, Cool Driver, will offset emissions from vehicles.
Philadelphia Regional Resources:
Energy Coordinating Agency
1924 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
A private, non-profit organization, ECA provides sustainable energy assistance to help ensure that all Philadelphians have access to safe and dependable energy. Energy-saving services—free for low-income households—include insulation, cool roofs, solar systems, and efficient heating systems installations. Their website offers tips and brochures on saving energy as well as an interactive energy efficient home. The Million Solar Roofs program is partner of ECA that offers resources on grants, funding, and solar services.
1218 Chestnut Street, Suite 1003, Philadelphia, PA 19107
The Energy Co-Operative is a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative with over 6500 members throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Energy Cooperative has provided savings on home heating oil for 25 years, and has begun helping homes with electricity as well; they can also send you a resource packet on energy saving tips for your home. Among its many services, the Co-op sells bio-heating oil blend and provides a buy-back program for businesses and individuals who produce their own solar energy.
Keystone Home Energy Loan Program (HELP)
This government program offers low-interest loans for low to moderate income people who want to purchase energy efficient systems for their homes.
Build a Better Planet with What We Already Have
When you reduce, reuse, and recycle, you keep waste out of landfills and save on resources needed to produce new material. Consider finding new owners for old items, buying previously owned appliances, furniture, and clothing: it’s less expensive and often better quality.
Don’t buy it new! These on-line classified ads let you buy and sell almost anything from bikes to blenders to baby strollers.
Instead of throwing away your old things, Freecycle them! By joining your local Freecycle network, you can post online anything you would to get rid of—fridge, table, toys, etc.—and find someone in your area who wants it. Freecycle is a convenient way to reduce and reuse—the important stages before “recycle.”
Need to do some renovation at home or at your meeting? Look on-line for “used building materials” or “architecture salvage” in your area. San Francisco Friends put a floor in their Meetinghouse that used to be a high school gym!
Philadelphia Regional Resources:
Blue Mountain Recycling
2904 Ellsworth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146-2713
Blue Mountain Recycling processes Philadelphia’s curbside recycling and has drop off locations throughout the Delaware Valley where it offers cash incentives for recycling. Visit www.phila.gov/streets/residential_recycling.html for a list of recyclable materials in Philadelphia.
3016 E. Thompson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19134
Reusing materials, even whole buildings themselves, is one of the primary tenets of green design. The ReStore offers renters and homeowners the ability to give still-usable home materials the chance for a second (or third, of fourth!) life. ReStore offers architectural salvage, deconstruction services, and design consultations.
1610 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19130
Phone (215) 236-6677
Provenance offers architectural salvage products. They are currently open by appt. & on weekends. To set up a time, please call the store or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buying Fresh and Local Means More than Better Food
Decisions about lawns, gardens, and food can contribute to more sustainable living. Contributing to green space helps manage stormwater and naturally cools the built environment. Buying local and organic produce reduces use of pesticides and saves energy on transportation.
Helps eaters make the positive shift toward local, small-scale sustainable farming, rather than focus on problems. Lots of information and clever short-film presentations.
A national non-profit dedicated to reintroducing Americans to their food,the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry it from the fields to our tables. Headquarters of the national Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement.
Find a community supported farm, U-pick, or farmers’ market in your region. National searchable database
Philadelphia Regional Resources:
Buy Local PA Help save energy and enjoy fresh produce. Buying local produce supports Pennsylvania sustainable farming and cuts down on energy used in transporting goods. The Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign provides an online database of local produce and other food.
Philadelphia Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street – 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Philadelphia Horticultural Society has been an active member of the community for over 175 years and is now a partner of Sustainable Philadelphia. As part of its Philadelphia Green program, PHS is planting trees, revitalizing abandoned lots for gardens and parks, and helping strengthen local communities.
100 E. Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19118
The official arboretum of the State of Pennsylvania offers an extensive education program open to the public that will help you understand issues surrounding ecology, horticulture, and land use—and special programs for kids and families are part of the offerings. Visiting their extensive grounds is also a great way for city dwellers to reconnect with the natural environment.
Red Bud Native Plant Nursery
1214 N. Middletown Road, Glen Mills, PA 19039
Plants help mitigate the effects of global warming by sequestering carbon. Including plants in your garden that are native to the Delaware Valley also improves soil and encourages native wildlife, such as butterflies.