MARCH 2018 / ISSUE 106 / GRIDPHILLY.COM
T O W A R D A S U S TA I N A B L E P H I L A D E L P H I A
Ditch your lawn and go native P. 14 ■
The Delaware River Keeper introduces ‘The Green Amendment’ P. 10
The Great Indoors PAGE 20
A growing legion of houseplant enthusiasts enjoy the lush life
Nakia Maples, Philly Plant Guy
435 W. Glenside Avenue Glenside, PA 19038 | primexgardencenter.com
Slow Build The complete local circle of NextFab’s new benches After years of dutifully serving the woodworkers at NextFab in South Philly, the benches and router table were due for an upgrade. Of course, as Philly’s premier makerspace, NextFab relished the opportunity to build something unique. The quest began with Steven Greenberg, a NextFab member and the owner of the socially driven furniture maker Furnishing a Future. The company specializes in creating durable furniture for families transitioning to affordable housing, and they train veterans and returning citizens, formerly incarcerated people, in the skill of fine woodworking. Curtis Helm, a friend of Greenberg’s who works for the Fairmount Park Conservancy, mentioned that his organization could donate wood from culled old-growth trees from Fairmount Park. Greenberg says, “We liked the idea that Philly wood could be used by a Philly workforce development program to train Philly’s returning citizens to get jobs in Philly while providing furniture for Philly’s homeless! We liked the idea of a complete local circle.” Fairmount Park Conservatory milled the wood into lumber, but the lumber needed to be dried before it could be used. The cost of kiln drying the wood was prohibitive, and Greenberg had no place to store it. NextFab addressed both of these problems by storing the wood and allowing it to air-dry at the same time. It’s a longer process than kiln drying but one that works just as well. “NextFab has been very generous to Furnishing a Future by helping us out with materials and workspace for our training,” Greenberg says. “So, when this opportunity came up for the Conservatory to donate, they gave us enough wood that we were able to share it with NextFab.” That collaborative spirit is what makes NextFab such a unique space to work in. “The community here is the most important part, honestly,” says Technical Supervisor Marc DiGiamo. “We have this great group of like-minded people with cool ideas and they need help. They don’t just need space and tools, they need people to talk to and work with. That’s what staff is for, and that’s what all the other members are for too.” Looking to develop a community partnership? Discover ways to work with and at NextFab. Learn more at nextfab.com/partner
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It’s Your Time Good advice from a family member gone too soon
ropped up in my cousin’s casket were two baseball cards—Brad Lidge and Dave Hollins, if you are a sports fan. Sean had forgone the typical burial suit and chose instead to wear a gray Phillies hoodie. Much to my regret, I didn’t know my cousin well. In retrospect, his life had many parallels to my own. Only about a hundred days separated our births. He studied journalism in college, and started his own business. He was a dad. And he was an avid sports fan. After he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, he wrote a powerful essay about Cindy Stowell, the “Jeopardy” champion who competed in 2016 while she was dying from cancer, and how the disease, and her example, had affected his life. He wrote: “Now, instead of saying, ‘It would be cool to get together sometime and grab a bite to eat,’ to an old friend and then never setting anything up, I’ll do my level best to schedule something concrete, to make it happen.” Later in the essay, he wrote this: “Unplug often, go fishing, listen more closely, slow down, embrace and enjoy your family, and go to a big sports event or concert (and, for the love of God, if it’s Justin Bieber, please take my daughter Sarah along so that I don’t have to).” Sean’s rapid decline coincided with the Eagles’ ascendance. For various reasons, I stopped watching football about 10 years ago. It was partly due to a long-distance romance that necessitated weekend visits, but also to a growing awareness to how much time I was devoting of my finite life to sports. (As a baseball fan, it’s still considerable.) After I had weaned myself off of my gridiron devotion, the stories about player concussions were emerging. I was glad not to feel a personal, moral tug while watching a diversion I had enjoyed.
But as the Eagles kept winning, I was thinking about Sean’s words, and a good friend of mine who moved away from Philly 10 years ago. We still work together, so we keep in touch by phone regularly, but there was a time when we were practically inseparable. We watched all meaningful—and many meaningless—Philadelphia sports games together. And so, on Super Bowl Sunday, I boarded an Amtrak train to leave this delirious city to go to a Philly sports bar in... Manassas, Virginia. The game was ridiculously fun, and if you didn’t hear, the Eagles won. We hugged each other, and all our fellow long-suffering fans in the bar. What a moment. Just weeks before, while at the graveyard where Sean was being buried, an eagle was spotted circling overhead. He would have loved that, someone said. And I’m sure that’s true, for the sports symbolism and for the eagle itself. When Sean was sick, he immersed himself in nature and photography. He wrote, “I’ve relied heavily on the therapeutic effects of nature’s amazing beauty to help me in my fight.” I’m reading a fascinating book right now by Tim Wu about the history of propaganda, media and advertising called “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads.” In it, Wu writes: “As William James observed, we must reflect that, when we reach the end of our days, our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default.” That’s the challenge: to live intentionally, even when we think time is on our side. Thank you, Sean, for the good advice. I’ll do my best to follow it.
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A Mom Finds an Unlikely Ally
s a consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, Christine Dolle’s job included urging Congress to support environmental legislation. She has experienced her share of successes as well as fruitless efforts with legislators who won’t oppose even the most extreme anti-environmental measures. So, in fall 2017, when she heard about the nomination of Michael Dourson to become the Environmental Protection Agency’s top chemical safety official, she stood with Moms Clean Air Force to advocate for his defeat. Dourson had a record of minimizing the perceived risk of chemicals, citing research funded by major industry players such as DuPont, Monsanto and the American Chemistry Council. He worked on behalf of DuPont to examine the chemical PFOA, which was later implicated in contaminated drinking water in areas surrounding military bases, including North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune and locally at the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station and Warminster Naval Air Warfare Center. North Carolina’s two Republican senators publicly opposed Dourson’s nomination, and Dolle remembered that when the local PFOA contamination was in the news, Sen. Pat Toomey had been part of a bipartisan effort to address it. This was one of the few times he appeared to support the environment and public health—and Dolle wanted to leverage that. “After trying to find common ground with him for years on environmental and public health issues, we had finally found this hook,” she says. Moms Clean Air Force had already posted a petition to senators but Dolle wanted to amplify the pressure. She posted calls to action on social media and delivered a folder of information to Toomey’s Philadelphia office.
She got a meeting with the senator’s press secretary and regional manager. While staff meetings are not uncommon, this meeting was requested by the highest-level person from Toomey’s office. As she prepared for her Dec. 8 meeting, she reached out to friends (like me!) to ask for help putting pressure on the senator. She posted a call to action on social media with Toomey’s office numbers, which got more than a dozen shares and posts on activist groups. The press secretary told her the office had received calls on this issue. Dolle said Sen. Toomey seemed sympathetic and interested—which she doesn’t often see when discussing divisive issues with opposing parties. He confirmed the importance of personal stories, and the vocal advocates from Moms Clean Air Force had plenty to tell. “I left feeling fantastic about the meeting,” she says. “Knowing what we knew, I just couldn’t see a way through for him to OK this nomination.” Less than a week later, Dourson withdrew after it became clear that the Senate was unlikely to confirm him. Toomey never made public his views on Dourson, and any number of circumstances could have led to the nominee’s withdrawal. Perhaps Dolle’s actions assisted in tipping the scale. “I’m proud of the work I did, and I feel energized and encouraged by even the possibility that I may have played a part,” she says. My 8-year-old son and I have had the chance to meet with representatives in Pennsylvania and D.C.—all you have to do is sign up with Moms Clean Air Force for information on upcoming opportunities. By partnering with organizations that connect you directly with your government, maybe you can help tip the scale toward a victory for public health.
paige wolf is the author of “Spit That Out!: The Overly Informed Parent’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids in the Age of Environmental Guilt.” Follow @paigewolf on Twitter. 4
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hen russell meddin began reading about Mobike in April 2016, he felt he’d come across something big. The private bike-sharing company had begun serving Chinese cities without the use of docking stations. Rather than renting a bicycle from a quarter-block-sized station, and returning it to one, Mobike allows users to leave their bicycles anywhere. “I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness. This is going to make all the difference in the way the public uses bicycles— and want to use bicycles,’” says the Logan Square resident. “The design was so forward and so different that anybody will want to use it.” Meddin sort of has a knack for these things. He was the first to openly advocate for bike sharing in Philadelphia, all the way back in 2006. He began doing so after a trip to Lyon, France, where he saw people utilizing a public two-wheeled option. In Lyon—a mostly flat metropolis sandwiched between two rivers—Meddin saw an opportunity, and he founded Bike Share Philadelphia to help publicize the concept. He’d see his dreams come to fruition when Indego, Philadelphia’s public bike-sharing system, launched in 2015. But, he says, the world of bike sharing has moved past Philadelphia over the last three years. Today, cities around the world have made dockless bike sharing a reality. A number of American cities are piloting dockless systems right now, and according to a recently released request for information from the city, we could be next. Dockless bikes can go—and, more importantly, be left—anywhere within a prewritten, geocoded boundary, not just the Strawberry Mansion, 52nd Street to Passyunk to Fishtown boundaries where Indego’s docks
exist. The digital geocoding built into the bicycles and the system that runs them helps the company keep track of where the bicycles are, and who is using them. Dockless bike sharing could essentially deem current boundaries obsolete. It could also add a lot more bikes. After Seattle’s bike-sharing system went belly-up last year, that city allowed three private bike-sharing companies to move into the city for a pilot. Those companies, according to a PlanPhilly report, quickly parked about 9,000 bicycles all over the city. “For comparison, it took Indego over two years to ramp up to 1,200 bikes and 120 stations,” noted PlanPhilly’s Jim Saksa. On its surface, this new bike-sharing system seems like a no-brainer. But the new technology has some worried. The most common refrain: What about all those bikes left in the street, blocking sidewalks, ADA-accessible ramps or just tossed aside as trash? “This morning I was driving on Rock Creek Parkway and there was a trashed bike under a bridge. How the hell did it get there?” asks a Washington, D.C., resident who asked not to be named due to working in the bicycle industry. “Yesterday, I saw one under a pile of garbage bags, dirty carpets and a trash can… I cannot tell you how many bikes I’ve seen in stupid spots or already trashed.” The solution? Education, says Meddin. If users are taught how to use the tech, and are potentially given incentives for parking the bike correctly, dockless bike sharing could work out quite well for Philadelphia. “This is an item in the new shared economy to be shared,” he says. “And the people who are interested in using this should think about the next user and park the bike correctly. Education, as we know with everything else in the bicycle world, shareduse or not, is the key issue.”
randy lobasso is the communications manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
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Immigrant Story From savior to nuisance to species in decline, the house sparrow’s is an American tale
alk out of your rowhouse and there they are, incessantly cheeping from the eaves. Outside your office they’ll peck crumbs off the sidewalk or catch a quick bath in a street puddle before the next tire rolls through. Eat lunch on a park bench, and they will watch with their little heads cocked to the side, waiting for you to drop a crumb. The house sparrow “is the default little brown bird you see on street corners and edges of yards and stuff,” explained George Armistead, president of the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and co-founder of Bird Philly. It’s hard to imagine now, but for the first
A sparrow in central Philadelphia
200 years of Philadelphia’s history, there were no house sparrows. The Eurasian birds (our native sparrows look similar but are unrelated) were intentionally imported in the mid-to-late 1800s to fight urban tree pests. The first releases were in Portland, Maine; New York; and Boston, but in 1869 Philadelphia got in on the act. As Philadelphia’s Thomas Gentry described in his 1878 book, “The House Sparrow at Home and Abroad,” Philadelphians had been desperate for a solution to an infestation of inchworms. John Bardsley, aka “Sparrow Jack,” a Germantown lawyer originally from England, offered to bring some house sparrows back from a visit to his home village.
City Council took him up on the offer, and in March he returned with more than 1,000. You can track this sparrow delivery in “Sparrow Jack,” a children’s book by Mordicai Gerstein. “To me it was a story of immigrants, and for me humans weren’t the only immigrants,” Gerstein said. This fanciful telling shows a city exasperated by inchworms eating its trees and then rescued by Bardsley and his birds. As Gentry wrote in his drier version of the events, “[E]mancipated at a period when nature was buoyant with life, and all aglow with beauty and song, there could be no obstacle to their easy acclimatization, and consequent multiplication and diffusion.” Multiply and diffuse they did, but so did regrets. House sparrows do catch caterpillars and other bugs to feed their young but, when older, mainly eat seeds and grain. In the countryside they quickly became an agricultural pest. The aggressive little birds pushed out natives, particularly other cavity nesters such as bluebirds and house wrens—casus belli for what historians call the
S PA R R O W : I S TO C K P H OTO / G E N E K R E B S
Read more about how house sparrows came to Philadelphia in “Sparrow Jack,” a children’s picture book by Mordicai Gerstein.
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Sparrow Wars of the late 1800s. On one side were those who valued them for fighting insects; on the other were nature lovers and ornithologists, including Gentry, pointing out the ecological and agricultural damage caused by the birds. The sparrows won in the end, and bird lovers are generally still angry about it, though that might depend on the habitat. “In the city, in really urban areas, they’re not competing with much native,” explained Armistead, who lives in Point Breeze. “My parents live in Mount Airy, where there is more bird habitat. There, if you put up a birdhouse for bluebird, house wren, tree swallow or chickadees, house sparrows keep taking them over, and that’s where there’s resentment toward them and they do the most damage.” Our native birds might take some comfort in a recent drop in house sparrow numbers. As Ken Frank describes in “The Ecology of Center City Philadelphia,” Pennsylvania house sparrow numbers have declined 62 percent since 1966, and no one knows why.C The decline is more concerning in their M native territory. In London, for example, they declined 60 percent between 1994 andY 2004, according to the Royal Society for theCM Protection of Birds. In India, the Nature MY Forever Society has tried to rally conservation interest by declaring March 20 WorldCY Sparrow Day and naming it the state bird of CMY Delhi. As the society’s president Mohammed K Dilawar puts it, “The house sparrow is one bird which is seen by everyone, by kids, by adults, by people from various socioeconomic strata… It is a bird of the common man.” Jessica Burnett, a wildlife researcher, has studied house sparrows in Florida and makes the case for an American interest in the decline, even though they’re not native. “The house sparrow is declining across the globe in its native and non-native range… and researchers just don’t know why, and it’s kind of disturbing.” Whatever is affecting the sparrows won’t necessarily stop with them, she said. “What’s going to happen to our native wildlife?... What happens if no bird species can thrive in our urban areas?” For now, at least, urbanites can still take some pleasure in the omnipresent birds. “You can make observations from a park bench,” Armistead said. “And they are spirited little guys. They have a ton of attitude given their size. They’re pesky, rambunctious, they gather in groups and duke it out for dominance. Like it or not, house sparrows are a part of our landscape.”
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There Oughta Be a Law Delaware Riverkeeper’s new book advocates for a constitutional by justin klugh amendment protecting the environment
ake a closer look at any small portion of the earth and you’ll find detailed ecosystems at work, growing and evolving all on their own, frenzied cycles overlapping each other and building more and more complex systems. Delicate, but balanced. Fragile, but resilient. As humanity develops and expands, it’s all too common to find that these passages, the vast and the microscopic, have become battlegrounds between the developmental pushes of modern humans and those who would maintain the precious environmental balance that keeps the planet intact. One of those battles is fought every day up and down 10
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the Delaware River, led by the riverkeeper herself, Maya van Rossum. Early one afternoon, I received a text from van Rossum: “I am in midst of a big problem.” She is, indeed: As van Rossum writes in her book, “The Green Amendment: Securing Our Right to a Healthy Environment,” human beings are in desperate need of fundamental, inalienable rights to a clean environment, which parallel rights to speech or religion. Without them, the environment can be tapped, cracked and drained, leaving devastation and health risks where there once was sprawling farmland, dense forests or rushing rivers.
But the “big problem” to which van Rossum refers now is that she is racing home from a protest in a car with a rapidly depleting battery. “Pardon my French,” she says, “but my charger crapped out.” An inability to rely on power, it seems, is a recurring theme in van Rossum’s work. The central goal of “The Green Amendment” is to add to the U.S. Constitution the permanent right to a safe, clean environment. Starting at the top, however, has not been fruitful, as no national leadership has thus far offered a pathway to such a high-level solution. “We had a failing government in terms of environmental protection under the previous administration, and every administration
before that, because our laws are simply not written, designed and implemented in a way that will give our environment the highest level of recognition and protection that we need,” she says. “The new administration has certainly raised the bar in terms of the number of battles we have to take on, but it’s certainly made it a lot easier to make the case that the laws we have on the books are failing us, particularly when we have a government that has such a callous disregard for the power and importance of a healthy environment.” While legislation such as the Clean Air Act has been pushed through by environmentalists, van Rossum writes, powerful business entities have the influence to change their language, insert loopholes, receive softer punishments or determine whether or not a law even passes. For now, van Rossum advocates making amendments at the state level, where constitutions are traditionally more fluid. With enough support, the U.S. can catch up to the 147 of 193 nations of the world with environmental protection language in their official charters and make steadfast federal protection of the environment a more feasible option. In the meantime, van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network continue to fight the many small, volatile disasters that dot the landscape of environmental work. “It’s really a lot of working with communities to get them organized,” she explains. “That means helping them understand the issues they might face—a pipeline, a development project, an industrial proposal; understanding what the threat is... It also requires a lot of research, because every new battle has a new set of facts and a new set of laws that are particular to that battle.” Chapters in “The Green Amendment” recurrently open with the narration of nightmares: landowners watching their backyards become “Sacrifice Zones,” areas so deeply polluted that rehabilitation is no longer an option; farmers witnessing their livestock being poisoned by the fallout of fracking; families sending children away to keep them safe from gurgling, discolored water supplies. Each horror affects someone with a name, a family and a story that ended because there was no protection in place for them, a point that often shatters what they had believed to be common sense.
“When they go get a glass of water from their kitchen faucet, they assume that that water is clean and healthy, and the government has an obligation and a responsibility to keep that water clean, and therefore it’s clean,” van Rossum says. “It’s only when somebody points out the reality—that actually they don’t have that as a fundamental right the way they have these other fundamental freedoms like the right to free speech. It brings it to the forefront of their mind. ‘Of course I have the right to have air that isn’t going to make me sick, of course I have the right to clean water... Surely industry doesn’t have a bigger, better right to make profit if it means my child will get sick and might die!’ They’ve assumed it; they haven’t thought about it.” Van Rossum hopes to see the personal component of environmental protection instilled in future generations, and by telling the stories of people’s friends and neighbors, she hopes to tap into a reader’s empathy. “People connect with people,” van Rossum says. “It gives them the empathy to say, ‘It’s not happening to me today, but it might
happen to me tomorrow, and therefore I really need to care.’” Van Rossum’s work has resulted in victories: Act 13—an amendment to Pennsylvania’s oil and gas law that appropriates zoning of oil and gas development—slaps a fee on natural gas accruement. But a great deal of “The Green Amendment” is spent conveying the rareness of victories in the fight for a clean environment—not to steal hope, but to create it, because for a long time, victory against mammoth corporate entities with government allowances seemed implausible. It may seem, while watching a river like the Delaware flow into the vastness of the sea, that we live in an endless world. But this is a finite earth under our feet, and as van Rossum writes, it can’t all be sacrificed. She, along with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and countless other organizations, are in it for the long haul. This is an uphill battle, and a win means simply that the hill remains. Like the river she keeps, van Rossum rushes forward: “I sort of babble on,” she says, “because I don’t really have a choice.”
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Fighting for Air Nicetown neighbors make a case against SEPTA’s by danielle corcione new natural gas plant
hen retired teacher Lynn Robinson learned a natural gas plant was coming to her neighborhood in Germantown, she felt a resounding “No!” jolt through her body. “No, that’s wrong, that can’t be, that’s unacceptable,” she recalled in January in a phone interview with Grid. “You don’t put a power plant in a residential neighborhood, especially not mine.” In November 2015, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a development project to renovate the Wayne Junction train station—which borders Nicetown and Germantown—was underway, after receiving a $3.98 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration in spring 2011. (The publication also mentioned a refurbished Wayne Junction was on the table as early as June 2011.) The $30 million project originally focused on operational makeovers—including
Nicetown resident Eric Marsh Sr. opposes the proposed gas plant
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installing new elevators to meet requirements for the Americans with Disabilities Act, building a new high-level platform and more—but there was no mention of constructing a gas plant. By the time Mitch Chanin, a volunteer with environmental organization 350 Philadelphia, got involved with the resistance against the plant—particularly through the organization’s Fossil Free SEPTA campaign in 2016—contractors had already been selected, and a proposal for a gas plant had been accepted. “We have brought to light that there appears to have been some pressure on SEPTA from at least one very powerful state legislator who had close ties to the gas industry back in 2012,” Chanin explained in a phone interview with Grid. Robinson also cited criticism voiced by state Rep. Stan Saylor, who served as the majority whip at the time. In 2012, he chas-
tised SEPTA’s decision to continue investing in diesel-electric hybrid buses instead of vehicles fueled with compressed natural gas and went so far as to threaten the transportation service’s funding, the Inquirer reported. SEPTA offered to use natural gas to fuel its rail system, but not buses. However, on Jan. 23, SEPTA announced an off-site “renewable energy expression of interest form,” which renewable energy suppliers can file by March 13. The Nicetown neighborhood is predominantly a community of color. According to 2010 Census data, 85.5 percent of neighborhood residents are African-American. Comparatively, only 2 percent are white. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African-Americans are almost three times more likely to die from asthma than white Americans. Children living in the 19140 Zip code have some of the highest rates of asthma hospitalization in the city, according to 2012–2014 data collected by the city through the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council. Nicetown resident Eric Marsh Sr. recalls a vastly different landscape than today. “I remember when the streets were tree lined,” he said. “I’m not certain when the city started removing them.” Marsh didn’t grow up in the neighborhood, but often visited his great aunt’s home on the 3800 block of North 16th Street. Two years ago, he moved into that house with his wife and three children. It wasn’t long after the move that his daughter, Amaya, was diagnosed with asthma. Marsh knows this isn’t attributable to having lived in the Nicetown for such a short time, but he’s concerned about what the addition of a gas plant will mean going forward. “They’re making a sick population sicker,” said Marsh. Four City Council members—Cindy Bass, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Helen Gym and Curtis Jones—have written letters to the director of Philadelphia’s Air Management Services, requesting the P HOTO BY KRISTO N JAE BETHEL
department reject SEPTA’s permit. However, Robinson wants more support from her elected officials against the project. Since hearing the news through a Food and Water Watch campaign, Robinson stepped up as director of Neighbors Against the Gas Plants, an organization formed in October in response to the proposed gas plant. Along with 130 signatories of Germantown and Nicetown residents, as well as parents of students attending schools in the plant’s affected Zip codes, she submitted an appeal to the city. Volunteers with 350 Philadelphia spearheaded their own citizen research, including a financial analysis of the project as well as a critique of its climate impact. The organization said inequalities aren’t being addressed in the city’s commissioned research—particularly through the EPA’s Combined Heat and Power Energy Emissions and Savings Calculator, which was utilized by SEPTA to calculate and compare the estimated fuel consumption and air pollutant emissions from its transit. “We started doing our own research at the beginning of our campaign in 2016,” Chanin added. “In some cases, [SEPTA] discounted our findings. One case on the greenhouse gas impact… they just said, ‘Well, we used the CHP calculator, so who should we believe?’ That’s not legitimate. We made real arguments based on actual analysis. Saying you used a resource from an authority doesn’t mean the conclusions are correct. Why not dig into it and have a conversation about what you’re putting forward?” Both 350 Philadelphia and Neighbors Against the Gas Plants have submitted appeals to Air Management Service’s permit issue of the Midvale Complex. However, those appeals can always be appealed by prospective government agencies, such as Air Management Services. The neighborhood is home to 15 schools, including Thomas Jefferson University and Drexel University College of Medicine. Marsh’s daughter, Amaya, now 8, and youngest son, Aaron, 7, attend Edward T. Steel Elementary School, which is only slightly more than a quarter mile from the proposed gas plant. “My concern is not just for my daughter,” Marsh said. “As a parent at Steel School, I represent 600 students.”
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Mow Problems Turning green lawns into green spaces
t’s a strange kind of irony: The green spaces that surround our homes often aren’t so “green” at all. While many city dwellers might not have a lawn of plush, green grass, homes on the city’s outskirts do. Rooted in ideas of class and respectability that stretch back hundreds of years, perfectly manicured, weed-free and vibrant patches of turf are still a point of personal pride for many homeowners. But the resources required to plant grass and keep it maintained are responsible for significant pollution. Many lawn fertilizers and pesticides 14
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contribute to the slow poisoning of streams and rivers, and some pose potential health risks to children and pets. Irrigating lawns is a huge stress on the water supply, while, unfortunately, the soil in many yards is so compacted it cannot absorb natural rainfall and causes massive runoff. Then there are the gas-powered mowers and other lawncare equipment required to keep resilient grasses from growing “out of control”—just one more way that our society is consuming fossil fuels like there’s no tomorrow. There is another way to approach what it means to have a yard. Many green-mind-
ed homeowners are doing away with their lawns entirely, seeding them instead with fast-growing, ground-covering plants, mosses and wildflowers to create wildlife-supporting meadows, or planting low-maintenance ground covers, such as Pennsylvania sedge and clover. The result is a yard that’s alive with the energy of pollinators, birds and other small wildlife, and that can offer privacy, beauty and comfort to the humans who use the space, too. Sure, some neighbors might raise an eyebrow at a meadow instead of that picture-perfect lawn. But it’s high time societal norms about what a yard can—and should—be catch up with the efforts we must take to preserve the ecological stability of our planet. P HOTO BY RO B CA RDI LLO
A home garden in Bucks County
Projects to Try
Add natural stones and rocks around your garden. These help to protect beds and create shapes and pathways without purchasing new materials, and they enhance waterflow through the property.
Choose native plants that will repopulate year after year.
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Add solar lights for ambient lighting at night.
Choose permeable surfaces when hardscaping: pea gravel or decomposed granite
Install a rainwater barrel to help with stormwater runoff.
If you can’t rip out your whole lawn and plant a meadow, start with little places that you see every day, such as along a walkway or where you have a clear view from your kitchen window. Replace the grass in those locations with plants that will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
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SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE DIRECTORY Cedar Run Landscapes, North Wales Sustainable practices are emphasized at this commercial and residential business, including the utilization of local materials and native plant species. cedarrunlandscapes.com • 800.526.3722 City Planter, Philadelphia While this NoLibs-based garden-supply shop doesn’t offer full-on landscaping services, it does help customers design the perfect container garden, which for many city dwellers is the most we have room for in our tiny backyards or balconies. cityplanter.com • 215.627.6169
EcoLandscapes Design, Bala Cynwyd For over a decade, EcoLandscapes has provided organic and sustainable land-
To ask before going wild in your yard Before embarking on any home renovation or landscaping projects, there are some key questions to ask, both of yourself and of the contractors or companies you may consider hiring. Of course there are the issues of budget and timing, keeping in mind that often projects go over budget and over schedule. But beyond those first steps, here are five questions you should fully consider before diving into a sustainable landscaping project, either on your own or with a hired professional: ASK YOURSELF
A S K YO U R C O N T R A C TO R
What do you actually use your yard for? While many of us idealize how we’d like to use our outdoor spaces, fantasy doesn’t always align with reality. So, analyze your expectations and see if they match up with how you and your family utilize these areas. For instance, do you really need a huge rectangular lawn for the kids to be able to play a soccer game, or can you use that space in a different way?
Where are you sourcing plants? When it comes to transparency, the landscaping world is beginning to cross the same threshold that the organic food world has been going through over the past few decades. As a client, you should not be shy asking about plant and material sourcing. The contractor should be able to account for what they intend to use, how it’s grown and where it came from. (If you’re going the DIY route, ask the nursery where you shop. Responsible nurseries are more than happy to provide that information for customers.)
What potential do you see in this property? Even the smallest outdoor areas are an extension of your living space, and with a creative eye, they can offer so much more than a patch of turf. Perhaps breaking up the property into a couple of different spaces will maximize its utility, creating a different view from the outside and a different feel—more expansive or private—from the inside. What are the physical attributes of your property? Observe how sunny or shady it is on your property. Is there standing water there throughout winter and spring? What are the soil conditions? Getting a clear sense of these practical conditions can help you or your contractor determine the right plants for specific areas of the yard.
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Where can I see your work? Unfortunately, landscaping contractors and companies sometimes make claims to expertise they haven’t truly earned. Ask to see portfolios and examples of work, read reviews and customer testimonials, and ask to speak to previous clients to ensure that the quality of the contractor’s work is what their business purports it to be.
scaping services including garden design and installation, edible landscaping and vegetable gardens, stormwater management, and organic lawn care and turfgrass alternatives. ecolandscapesdesign.com • 610.513.1735
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In addition to design, construction and management landscape services, this landscape design build firm specializes in restoration, permaculture and invasive plant management. land-stewards.com • 484.704.7451
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Naturescapes, Paoli For over 40 years, Naturescapes has used indigenous materials, employed local suppliers and gardened with a long-term view. naturescapes-pa.com • 610.640.0164
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Refugia, Narberth This three-year-old design build company works with clients to create functional landscapes that are ecologically beneficial, beautiful and resilient. refugiadesign.com • 267.314.SOIL
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Plant lovers can find all the necessities for garden and lawn care, as well as a calendar full of workshops, at this supply store. primexgardencenter.com • 215.887.7500
Roots strives to create a miniature ecosystem that meets the client’s needs and aesthetic while incorporating indigenous flora and fauna. rootslandscape.com • 610.964.0100
Urban Jungle, Philadelphia The same folks who own the fun garden shop on East Passyunk Avenue also offer landscaping services, specializing in small spaces, including vertical green walls and green roofs. urbanjunglephila.com • 215.952.6888
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Landscape Activation How the team at Refugia invites nature by emily kovach back into your yard
The Refugia team at their greenhouse
he life cycle of standard yard maintenance may sound familiar: In March, the winter annuals are ripped out; next up is a huge round of mulching; then the summer annuals are planted; more mulching; constant weeding, fertilizing, trimming and watering; and then as fall and winter approach it all starts to die, and the yard lays dormant until the next March when it starts all over again. This labor and resource-intensive method of beautifying landscapes never sat quite right with Jeff Lorenz, the founder of Refugia, a sustainable landscape design, building and management firm based in Narberth. “You realize a lot of it feels really ridiculous and pointless, coddling plants that really don’t—I don’t want to say don’t belong... but, you’re putting so much energy 18
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into them when there are other options that don’t need so much energy and intensity,” he says. “Our whole goal is for landscapes to start to be functional on their own and manage themselves with a lot less human input.” How do Lorenz and his team of designers do this? Mainly by focusing on native plants that grow, thrive and attract the wildlife in the geographical conditions of our region. They call this “activating the landscape.” Instead of trying to resist and control the forces of nature, they create spaces around their clients’ homes that mirror the plant communities one might see on a hike through a local forest. Lorenz founded Refugia in 2015 with a small team of like-minded people with various backgrounds in landscaping. Many designers on the current staff, which now
numbers seven, were classmates in Temple University’s master of architecture program, which has a focus on ecological restoration. Brint Nicolai, a designer at Refugia, says that, similar to Lorenz, he became interested in native design after spending a few summers working for a traditional landscaping company, which made him skeptical of the seasonal maintenance and planting practices. Planting things just to rip them up again felt unnatural and completely disconnected from the actual environment around them. “Native design is more practical. It has a sense of place and it improves from year to year, which is really cool,” he says. “You can have plants that have grown together for a really long time... We’re trying to take those natural plant communities and stylize them a little bit so it works in a smaller setting.” For many of their projects, the Refugia team will test the soil on the property, assess how water moves across and is absorbed by different areas, and see what mature trees and plants are already growing well on the site. They look at the property and envision it as different zones, noting sunny, upland sites or shadier, woodland areas. They compile simple plant lists, many of which are grown in their own greenhouse in Bala Cynwyd. Their goal is to give the property flowering or textural interest throughout the seasons, not just for aesthetics, but also to attract and support small wildlife. “Instead of trying to completely change the landscape, we work with it,” Lorenz says. “It’s a fun challenge to balance with the client’s needs, too.” The best part, Lorenz says, is that when you activate the landscape, you can see immediate changes. “There’s a vibrancy and sensory detail that happens immediately, literally: There’s the rustling of leaves, bees, hummingbirds using the space, and you can suddenly hear the breeze on your property,” he explains. “That’s just this extra magical quality to adding functional, useful plants into the landscape.”
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For Nakia Maples, aka Philly Plant Guy, houseplants are a way of life.
Lush Life N
akia maples, better known as Philly Plant Guy, has around 200 plants in his South Philly rowhouse. They're mostly tropicals like palms, philodendrons and long, trailing pothos in hanging baskets. In his “plant room”—where the only unoccupied space is a small sofa—a fountain gurgles away, and humidity-loving ferns hang above. A turtle swims in a fish tank in one corner; on the other side of the room, carnivorous plants like pitchers and sundews stay steamy and moist in glass fish tanks. Visitors—who may contact Maples through social media and request a quiet session in the plant room when they need some chillout time—are asked to sign the guest book. Maples works as a stagehand, setting up and breaking down shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (includby alex jones ing this month’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which is always a boon to his collection). His first plant was a simple pothos and is still one of his favorites. But once he was hooked, he went straight to carnivorous plants, some of the most challenging to raise in this climate. “For me, it’s a lifestyle,” Maples said. “I say this because a hobby is something you can pick up and put down. Plants are something that I have to physically integrate into my everyday
Need a respite from the city? Make your own indoor Eden
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life.” When he’s sipping coffee in the morning, Maples mists his plants—and typically posts a morning greeting to the 900-plus members of the Philly Plant Guy Facebook group. “It’s more like having a pet,” he says— and that includes the regular costs of upkeep, just like a furry friend would. Instead
of food, litter, dog park dues and vet visits, his expenses are fertilizer, neem oil to keep gnats and other bugs at bay, replacement soil and containers, and the occasional new member of the family he’s purchased, rather than propagated himself or swapped from another plant lover. This is the life Maples has wanted—
“…[A] hobby is something you can pick up and put down. Plants are something that I have to physically integrate into my everyday life.” —nakia maple s, Philly Plant Guy
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green everywhere, humidifiers chugging away, plantlets rooting in water—since he was a teenager, when he saw the apartment of a friend whose mother was into plants. “I remember the first time that I walked into her apartment, and she had a plant apartment,” he remembers. “I decided that that’s the way that I wanted to live. It was something deep inside me.” And who wouldn’t want to live in a lush, green, indoor environment? With our lives busier than ever, people spend much of their time tethered to a desk and a computer screen. As much as we might want to, we can’t always get out of the city for that woodland walk or waterfall hike. Surrounding ourselves with greenery mirrors the natural environment in which humans in many parts of the world evolved over
P L A N T S : I S TO C K P H OTO
hundreds of thousands of years. When we can’t head for the forest for reinvigoration and clarity, a potted version in our living space can provide a temporary soother. That explains why, according to the National Gardening Survey, consumers are purchasing more indoor plants. And guess who’s driving that growth (pun very much intended)? Millennials, who apparently love plants almost as much as they love their phones. Survey results indicate that American gardeners grew by 6 million in 2016, with 5 million of those with newly minted green thumbs coming from the 18-to-34 age demographic. You only need to look at Instagram— where @cactusmagazine reposts the cutest succulent shots to its 200,000 followers, and more than a million photos are tagged #plantsofinstagram. The Washington Post can tell you, too: “Millennials are filling their homes—and the void in their hearts— with houseplants,” read a headline last fall, pointing out the idealized way that the social media platform seems to present the trend toward indoor gardening. But social media serves another vital purpose. It’s increasingly becoming the way that people find, learn about and troubleshoot houseplants. They’re also connecting with each other, meeting up in real life for one-on-one plant trades and swap events, or just commiserating online about their leafy relationships. It’s sort of like a community garden, only indoors and in front of a screen. Take Philly Plant Exchange, a bustling Facebook group with more than 3,800 members. Aside from regular plant identification questions from new plant owners, within the group there are pest questions, care questions, posters seeking specific species or cultivars in the area—and, sometimes, celebration. When an ailing plant has been nursed back to health, a sought-after specimen gets added to a collection, or a typically reserved houseplant blooms for the first time, members can snap a photo and share the good news. For many, though, love for indoor plants predates the social media phenomenon. Alanna Bozman works as an indoor and
Xue Davis’ plant collection, from tropical monstera to heat-loving succulents, beautifies her workspace at a Penn neuroscience lab.
outdoor gardener for private clients, including one with a couple hundred houseplants that need regular love and tending in the winter. Over a decade or so, Bozman has amassed her own collection of around 150 plants in her West Philly apartment. With lots of trees and tropicals in her collection, many are sizeable, over 6 feet tall. In the summer, she gets a few friends to help out and drags most of her collection across the street to the community garden, of which she’s a member, so that they can get the full benefit of long days and warm weather. Come autumn, they go back inside—a much longer process, since she has to find the right space to store each one—with many, including a lush, floaty fiddle-leaf fig, a spreading split-leaf philodendron, a lime tree, several plumeria trees and birds-of-paradise that she started from seed, occupying her verdant, jungle-like “plant studio.” “In the winter, it really lifts my spirits, and the spirits of my friends,” she said of her collection. We’re seated inside, beneath the studio’s greenery, and I can’t stop looking up—almost as though I’m in a forest. “It reminds us of the coming summer, and it cleans the air inside. It helps me to have so many little things to care for. And it’s just nice to look at.” Peicha Chang has also seen the power that a green indoor space can have on people. Chang opened Falls Flowers in East Falls seven years ago; last year, her business relaunched in a larger space as Vault + Vine, offering not just bouquets and floral design for events, but also an extensive slate of indoor plants, gifts and a café that includes a seating area inside a greenhouse that stays balmy in the most frigid winter temperatures. “I don’t think you can ever really live in a green enough environment,” Chang said. “There’s something about plants that lets you slow down when you’re near them and realize how important the natural world is.” Erin Doherty, a former plant collector turned plant seller, sees the effect that plants have on people every day. When she was laid off from her corporate job, a friend suggested she sell her plant collection, which included many hard-to-find cacti and succulents
Houseplants for Beginners Do plants wither away when you so much as look at them? Not to worry: With these hardy, neglect-loving options, you can become a successful plant parent. ZZ plant AKA: Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It’s the deep-green, shiny-leaved plant from the lobby at work. The feathery leaflets are eye-catching, and it can handle light conditions from bright to fluorescent. A great addition to windowless bathrooms, hallways or offices. WHAT THEY LIKE: Indirect light, dry soil and general neglect. WHAT THEY DON’T: Bright, direct light and overwatering. TOXIC TO PETS: Yes Spider plant AKA: Chlorophytum comosum, airplane plant. The classic houseplant—ornamental, shapely and easy to care for. This air-purifying member of the asparagus family grows cute little white flowers in summertime, plus runners with baby spider plants you can propagate. WHAT THEY LIKE: Indirect light, water when they start to look droopy. WHAT THEY DON’T: Bright, hot sunlight and extreme temperatures. TOXIC TO PETS: No Snake plant AKA: Sansevieria trifasciata, mother-in-law’s
tongue. Lovely to look at, nearly impossible to kill, and it comes recommended for absorbing contaminants in the air by NASA’s Clean Air Study. Get the classic look—long, flat, snakelike green leaves with a stripy pattern—or one of the many variations. WHAT THEY LIKE: Welldrained soil that dries out between waterings, indirect light. WHAT THEY DON’T: Overwatering and bright light. TOXIC TO PETS: Yes Pothos AKA: Epipremnum aureum, devil’s ivy. Train the long-growing vines up a wall or around a door frame—they can grow up to 40 feet long in the right conditions—or prune them back to keep the plant looking bushy. WHAT THEY LIKE: Bright, indirect light and watering when leaves droop. WHAT THEY DON’T: Thirst. When the leaves continue to droop despite watering, it’s time to repot into a container one or two sizes up. TOXIC TO PETS: Yes
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Professional gardener Alanna Bozman transforms a room in her apartment into a lush, jungle-like escape from winter.
from business trips to California. She was aghast at the prospect, but the idea of selling plants stuck with her. She started with pop-up plant sales around Fishtown, then landed a permanent spot for her store, Field, on Frankford Avenue last summer. “People walk into the store and their faces light up,” she said. “They see things that are alive and healthy. I don’t want to go as far as to say that plants give people hope, but it’s a breath of fresh air.” Doherty counsels her customers—who often overload with wonder when they enter her verdant shop—with a consultation that is part therapy, part practical advice. Buying choices depend on a customer’s lighting situation and other aspects of their home environment, sure. But, Doherty says, the question is how much you want to commit—of time, of money, of yourself—to a small or large plant family. “I get both ends of the spectrum,” Doherty said. “Start small, because you don’t want to invest a ton of money in something you’re unsure of. Or start huge, because the more you invest, the more likely you’ll be to take care of it.” And while some are more casual plant parents, others take their responsibilities rather seriously. Xue Davis, a postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, moved to Philly in 2015 and joined
Houseplant Resources Perplexed by your plants? Here are some helping hands with green thumbs.
“In the winter, it really lifts my spirits, and the spirits of my friends… It helps me to have so many little things to care for.” —alanna b ozman, gardener
Facebook groups. The Philly Plant Exchange group is a great place to browse for information, see what your fellow Philadelphians are growing and seek advice for issues with your vegetation. Nakia Maples has his very own group—Philly Plant Guy, of course—where he posts tips, responds to queries and invites members to events at his very own urban jungle. Your friendly neighborhood plant seller. Whether it’s a full-service nursery
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like Greensgrow or Primex, a pop-up shop like Weavers Way Mercantile or a plant shop like Urban Jungle or Vault + Vine, almost every neighborhood in the city has one. Be sure to ask staffers for information on growing techniques. Housecalls for Houseplants. If you’ve tried everything but can’t get your green friends to thrive, it’s time to call in an expert. Herb and flower farmer Martha O’Neill provides personalized indoor-plant
consultations in the city, and she’ll come to you for a site visit and offer care tips and tricks. Email housecalls email@example.com or call 410-916-8581. Philadelphia Master Gardeners. Penn State University Extension has connected a small army of plant-passionate volunteers dedicated to helping people achieve the gardens they always wanted. Send questions to philadelphiamg@ psu.edu with the subject “Hortline” any time of year,
or leave a voicemail at 267314-8711 from mid-March through October. The Philadelphia Cactus and Succulent Society. If you’re ready to take your #succulentlife to the next level, PCSS is a great place to connect with like-minded succulent lovers who have a lifetime of hands-on experience with these fascinating plants. Monthly meetings in Roxborough include lectures, auctions and sales, and a Plant of the Month contest.
Facebook group last year. Someone gave her dozens of aloe plants, so she set about giving them away to fellow members. “It’s been so, so amazing,” Davis said. “I’ve met a lot of really cool people through the group, including some people who all work within a square block of me, so we will all meet up at my lab and each bring swaps for each other.” She estimates that among her home, her office and her husband’s house, she has around 110 plants—mostly tiny succulents like echeveria, which are her favorite. But Davis’ collection is dwarfed by that of Alison Friedlander, another Philly Plant Exchange member. The Manayunk resident estimates that she has had more than 500 succulents in her collection—fewer now that a DIY greenhouse she built on the back of her house was damaged during January’s extreme cold snap. She started with two cacti, purchased on a whim during a trip to Home Depot. A month later, she had 40 plants, “because I have no self-control,” she joked. That was two years ago. Now, her basement is home to hundreds of colorful cacti
and succulents, kept under the grow lights they need to stay healthy out of their desert habitat (and away from her curious cats). “I usually go down once a day for a few minutes to look at them, because they’re pretty,” she said. A large plant collection also tends to come with pests, so Friedlander spritzes any mealy bugs she finds on her specimens with a rubbing alcohol solution to keep them at bay. Friedlander admits that she has a tendency to go all in on interests—her collection of succulents begat an air plant habit, and once she built a habitat for the air plants, she realized she could raise poison dart frogs in the same environment. There’s a chance she’ll sell a portion of her collection on Etsy in the future; for now, though, her collection gives her too much joy to ever really give up. But even the most experienced plant lovers need a little help sometimes. When drooping leaves and pest damage become too much for an amateur to handle, sometimes you have to call in the experts. Martha O’Neill is a professional gardener and farmer whose résumé includes stints at City Planter in Northern Liberties, Tooth of the Lion herb farm in Berks County and plantings for private clients. Last year, she started offering support to troubled Philly plant parents through a project called Housecalls for Houseplants. Call O’Neill to gently diagnose what’s ailing your babies (no plant shaming allowed), be it an insect infestation, too much or too little water or light, the wrong-sized pot or poor placement in your living space. When she’s done, you’ll have care tips and tricks and a watering plan to set your babies on the right track. When a houseplant is showing signs of distress, like a few dead or drooping leaves, O’Neill says that doesn’t mean you should give up on it. “Believe in the resilience of your plants,” she advises. “Remember, your plant is a living organism.” If you intervene early enough and give your plant what it needs, it can usually bounce back. “It’s also really important to place your plants somewhere where you will see them every day. Putting them in your way helps you remember that they need care.” O’Neill charges for her services—which require a site visit—but the relationship people have with their houseplants, sometimes through generations, makes the
Houseplant Tips and Tricks If you’re lucky, you can keep a few basic houseplants alive without a ton of extra know-how—but most of us need all the help we can get. The plant fanatics I talked to all had tips for maintaining a happy and healthy indoor garden. Read on and you’ll be able to take your houseplant collection to the next level. Good drainage. That means the pot they’re in needs to have at least one hole in the bottom for water to flow out of. Use a masonry bit to drill a hole into your ceramic pot if it doesn’t come with one. Water correctly. Most plants benefit from a deep soaking. Water from the top, pouring water gently onto the soil and allowing it to drain fully, or water from the bottom by setting the pot in a shallow sinkful of water so the soil absorbs water through drainage holes. Set it up right. Before you buy a plant, think about where in your home it will live—and compare that to its requirements for light, temperature and humidity. Consider a grow light. Got a windowless spot in need of some green? Buy a grow light. You can go incognito with a stylish lamp and a white LED grow-light bulb, or you can purchase bulbs with a combination of blue and red LEDs, either as clip-on gooseneck lamps or hanging rectangular panels. Forgive yourself. Don’t freak out or judge yourself if you kill a plant. We’ve all commited herbicide—in fact, it’s how we learn to do better by our green friends next time.
money worth it. There’s something more to that relationship between plant and human, O’Neill says, than, say, tending your yard and leaving it behind when you move to a new home. “The difference with houseplants is you can carry them with you everywhere,” she says. “This is why you can have a Christmas cactus or a sago palm that your grandmother had for 25 years before you—and with that comes a lot of sentimentality. “These plants are family heirlooms, longtime friends,” O’Neill says, “and by nurturing them, we enrich our own lives.” Well, when you put it that way, our current houseplant trend is pretty easy to understand after all. M ARCH 20 18
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By Eating Well
“It’s a new experience for me to have a person—a woman!— working in my yard who I can approach easily and learn so much from.” - M.B.
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Become Fluent in Wildflowers Stroll through gardens of wildflowers, grow your knowledge in our classes, or enjoy a family-friendly event. We’re open Wednesday–Sunday, beginning April 4. Upcoming Events: Annual Wildflower Celebration Sunday, April 29 10 am–4 pm Free admission National Public Gardens Day Friday, May 11 10 am–4 pm Reduced admission
mtcubacenter.org/grid 3120 Barley Mill Rd. Hockessin, Delaware
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EV EN TS
The Front Yard Revolution
M arch 8 Diane Burko: ‘Vast and Vanishing’ Exploring the confluence of arts and science, Rowan University Art Gallery showcases the work of environmental artist Diane Burko. She has been documenting glacial recession as part of her ongoing work intersecting art and science around the issue of climate change. rowan.edu WHEN: 5 to 7 p.m. COST: Free WHERE: Rowan University Art Gallery, 301 High St. West, Glassboro, N.J.
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Learn the benefits of substituting invasive plants on your property with native trees, shrubs and perennials—plants that provide multiseasonal interest and support wildlife habitat. mtcubacenter.org WHEN: 1 to 3 p.m. COST: $30 WHERE: Mt. Cuba Center, 3120 Barley Mill Road, Hockessin, Del.
Make & Take Workshops with Greensgrow Farms Inspired by the lush gardens and water exhibits at the Philadelphia Flower Show? Greensgrow Farms hosts this hands-on workshop at the Fairmount Water Works, where participants learn how to make their own wildflower seed balls. fairmountwaterworks.org WHEN: 1 to 3 p.m. COST: Free WHERE: Fairmount Water Works, 640 Waterworks Drive
SustainaBall The Sustainable Business Network’s annual gala celebrates the localism movement and impact economy in greater Philadelphia. All proceeds support SBN. sbnphilly.ticketleap.com
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WHEN: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. COST: $100 WHERE: 320 S. Broad St.
Planning Your Vegetable Garden
M arch 10 Fox & Maple Day Say goodbye to winter and hello to spring with demonstrations on maple sugaring, nature walks and other activities, as well as a presentation by the illustrator of “The Secret Life of the Red Fox,” Kate Garchinsky. phila.gov/parksandrecreation WHEN: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. COST: Free WHERE: 700 Cobbs Creek Parkway
Whether you’re looking for a way to spruce up your garden or just starting out on your plant adventure, Food Moxie’s manager of growing spaces, Brandon, can explain the techniques and tools needed to organize your seeds. foodmoxie.org WHEN: 6 to 7:30 p.m. COST: $5 donation requested WHERE: 559 Carpenter Lane
M arch 15 United By Blue's Tacony Creek Cleanup United By Blue, the Philadelphia Water Department, Parks & Recreation and Honeygrow host a waterway cleanup at Tacony Creek. Cleaning supplies and snacks will be provided. unitedbyblue.com WHEN: 10 a.m. to noon COST: Free WHERE: North Tabor Road and East Olney Avenue
M arch 21 Morris Arboretum’s Lecture Series Lectures in this series are themed around making connections to the natural world. Richard T. Olsen, director of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., will present “Collections Breed Success at the National Arboretum.” morrisarboretum.org WHEN: 2 to 4 p.m. COST: Members $15; nonmembers $20 WHERE: 100 E. Northwestern Ave.
M arch 31 Play-A-Palooza 2018 Smith Memorial Playground invites families to celebrate the official start of the season, which includes the opening of the giant wooden slide, as well as extended spring and summer visiting hours. Kids can check out special giveaways, games, live performances, nature play, soccer and a special PBS Kids pop-up with appearances by Nature Cat. smithplayground.ticketleap.com WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. COST: $10 for children and members; free for ACCESS cardholders WHERE: Smith Memorial Playground, 3500 Reservoir Drive
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Where Learning Happens Easily At SusQ-Cyber Charter School, we oﬀer your child an environment where learning becomes easy. Along with being in the safety and comfort of home, every student receives the on-going support and encouragement of our entire staﬀ. Every one of our PA Certiﬁed Educators is willing to go above and beyond to help your child as they work together toward a successful graduation. See the diﬀerence we can make. New students may enroll at any time. We are Free Public Education for all PA students in grades 9-12.
AND THEY WILL COME.
Your property can be a wildlife preserve, and it starts with the plants. Support biodiversity, restore habitat, and create a sense of place by landscaping with plants native to Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic.
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Roman Catholic High School 7TH GRADE UNIVERSAL VISITATION DAY Wednesday, March 14, 2018
SPRING OPEN HOUSE
Sunday, April 8, 2018 From 11:00 am to 1:00 pm
7TH GRADE PRACTICE TEST Saturday, April 21, 2018 From 9:00 am to 12:00 noon
For Additional information, contact: Roman Catholic High School 301 N. Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19107
Office of Admissions
215-627-1270 ext. 146/159 Admissions@RomanCatholicHS.com
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DIS PATC H
Unplugged Looking back on a childhood without TV
grew up without a TV. (Insert raised eyebrows here.) My parents decided that, for religious reasons, there would be no television, or even a radio, in our home. They thought the TV would undermine what they were trying to teach us as children. So there was no “Three’s Company,” “MacGyver,” “Jeffersons” or even Saturday morning cartoons. I can honestly say the absence of a TV didn’t bother me as a kid; it just was one of those things. We would ask every so often— can we get a TV?—and the answer would remain the same: No. Our home was quiet, but filled with activity—instead of watching TV, we’d play games, hang out with our friends, read books, create art—normal stuff kids do. I didn’t get a TV until I was 26. On Sept. 12, 2001, my neighbor Mike gave me his so I could keep up with the news. After I plugged it into the cable, and absorbed the national tragedy, I realized, to my astonishment, that I had more than 60 free channels. I explored and found Comedy Central, ESPN Classics, Discovery and History as some of my favorites. After realizing I enjoyed watching TV, did I feel like I missed out? Not really. It means that I’m deficient in ’80s and ’90s pop culture knowledge, so I often miss the joke that someone is telling. It’s made me conscious that I have to connect with almost everyone without the help of a shared video memory. Nowadays, I’m busy with life raising two young kids with my partner, Kate, running a small business, traveling, painting and sculpting. We have a TV, but honestly I’m left with little time to watch it. (Though I have binge watched “The Wire,” “The Sopranos” and “The Walking Dead.”) Like just about everyone else, my biggest distraction now is my phone. I have tried to limit my interaction with it, but I find that 32
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I’m constantly emailing clients, texting with friends and, as a political junkie, checking the news. I’m sure my parents would not have allowed me to use a smartphone as a child, and now I am faced with the decision of what rules to make for my children. Ultimately, I feel that growing up without a TV was a privilege, almost a blessing. My head wasn’t filled with the bombardment of ideas, things to buy or—worst of all—the
noise. That was one thing my mom was always constant about: a quiet home. When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my dad thought it would be nice for her to listen to the religious hymns we sang growing up. He had them beautifully recorded and got a CD player for their house. Soon after he brought it in, she asked him to take it out. Even as my mom was facing the end of her life, she didn’t want distraction. She wanted the quietness back.
dan clites lives in West Philly and owns Tintco, a window tinting company. IL LUSTRATIO N BY HAN N AH AGOSTA
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The Quaker Hub for Peace and Justice in Philadelphia
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Seeing the forest for the trees A Penn student researches how Philadelphia’s trees respond to climate change VIRTUAL CAFÉ Join the MES program director on the first Tuesday of every month from 12-1 p.m. for an online chat about your interests and goals. Log in with us.
“As things get warmer and more humid, we want to figure out if migrating southern trees can combat some of the effects of climate change,” notes Master of Environmental Studies (MES) student and Southern Species experiment research assistant Amanda Wood (MES ‘18—expected). Through her work with Haddington Woods and Cobbs Creek Park, Amanda is researching what species of trees can survive in the Philadelphia area to get ahead of rapid changes in ecosystems. “Being a student in the MES program has improved my writing and statistical analysis skills, and I’ve learned how to use tools like geographic information systems (GIS), which are applied every day in my research,” she reflects. Amanda’s involvement with the Southern Species experiment is part of her final capstone research project and is helping her progress toward her ultimate goal of working in tropical reforestation. “I studied in Madagascar as an undergraduate and I saw the ecological and human-related effects of deforestation,” she explains. “So many people depend on trees for their livelihoods, and I want to help them do so sustainably and with care for the future.” Learn more about Amanda’s work in local forestry at:
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The Great Indoors A growing legion of houseplant enthusiasts enjoy the lush life