Grid Magazine July 2021 [#146]

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Grieving mothers heal each other

Workers unionize, Audubon delays

Delco’s pipeline problem

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p. 14

p. 26



Delivery start-up brings zero-waste shopping to your doorstep

CIRCULAR LOGIC Co-founders of The Rounds, Alexander Torrey (left) and Byungwoo Ko.

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Didier García (Saint Manifest) Philadelphia, PA @saint.manifest TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF I am a Queer Latinx multi-disciplinary artist and musician exploring and creating work that is centered around pleasure, love, and joy. Using my graphic design background as a foundation, I am interested in expanding and applying my design thinking to a plethora of materials and craft-making. The access and integration of various fabrication techniques at NextFab have opened doors to interesting intersections and possibilities. WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON? I’m currently working on a capsule collection for my HeartOn series which includes stickers, prints, pins, wall art, and jewelry. I designed the original Heart-On iconography back in 2012 as part of a retrospective show that celebrated the success of the SEXO LATEX project that was launched and created here in Philly back in the 90s for GALAEI. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? To become a savvy craft and business person and to create work that inspires and uplifts others.

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managing editor Alexandra W. Jones associate editor & distribution Timothy Mulcahy copy editor David Jack Daniels art director Michael Wohlberg writers Bernard Brown Constance Garcia-Barrio Siobhan Gleason Patrick Kerr Randy LoBasso Jason N. Peters Brion Shreffler Lois Volta photographers Drew Dennis Linette and Kyle Kielinski Milton Lindsay illustrator Lois Volta published by Red Flag Media 1032 Arch Street, 3rd Floor Philadelphia, PA 19107 215.625.9850 G R I D P H I L LY. C O M



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alex mulcahy

What Comes Around


n january 2019, Grid ran a cover that read “Dumpster Fire.” The article, entitled “A Big Waste,” was about the fact that Philadelphia was burning 50% of its recyclables. Keep in mind this was well before the pandemic, so there were no excuses of extraordinary volume or of a depleted workforce. What the article revealed was that the recycling department was chronically neglected and understaffed, and that the Streets Department, tasked with overseeing recycling, was essentially asleep at the wheel as a critical contract expired. The article was written by Samantha Wittchen, who had for years written a recycling column in Grid, and one of the people quoted in the story was Nic Esposito, the then-head of the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, which was subsequently and tellingly, eliminated during the pandemic. At the time it was published, Nic was not pleased with the story. Yes, the city was ill-prepared and understaffed, he said, but it’s easy to take shots at the city government when it has been tasked with an impossible job. He felt that Grid missed an opportunity to talk about the bigger picture, about how systemic changes are necessary to stem the tide of single-use containers. Whatever feathers were ruffled by the article have long since been smoothed over. Nic is a frequent and vocal critic of the Kenney administration, especially regarding how waste is (mis)managed. And, this month, Nic and Samantha, with Julie Hancher of Green Philly Blog, launched Circular Philadelphia, a nonprofit that will advocate on behalf of circular businesses to help them compete with those who rely on the landfill and municipal recycling. I don’t mean to demonize recycling, which has brought the concept of sustainability to the mainstream, but it shouldn’t be our primary response to the inescapable

glut of packaging. Every time something is thrown into the trash, it’s a failure of design and imagination. The same is true for recycling, no matter how virtuous we feel lugging our blue bins to the curb. That’s what makes me so excited about our cover story about The Rounds. This company is attacking the problem of excessive packaging at the source by offering products in reusable and returnable containers. I’ve been using their service for a few weeks now, and I love it. I’m buying almonds, cashews, oatmeal and quinoa, as well as hand soap and dish detergent. When I finish with any of the products, I just put the container in their cloth bag. Every week they take the cloth bag with the empties and bring a new bag with filled containers. Brilliant! There are still so many things that I would like to receive without single-use packaging—yogurt and peanut butter come to mind as family staples that fill our recycling bin—but maybe that will come soon. In the meantime, I am delighted to see the issue of packaging addressed in such a creative way. It is, one hopes, a harbinger of things to come.

ALEX MULCAHY Editor-in-Chief



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lois volta


How do I decide who (and what) is allowed in my home?


fter a year and a half of this global pandemic, I am finally starting to work with clients in their homes again, and I’m realizing that I am not the same person I was before COVID-19 hit. I now have different values regarding what a home is and how it operates. An embroidery I have hanging in my house says, “Home is where the heart is. Peace is where the home is.” I think about this often now and have developed a sharper edge when it comes to evaluating what keeps us from feeling peace in our own homes, what needs to be examined and what should possibly be removed or rethought. I was recently hired by someone to help with the clutter and flow of their home. Upon entering, I felt how fun, colorful and loving this family was, despite the mess. Yes, there was clutter and dirt, but the “bones” of this home were good. I could tell that it was their love that had gotten them through the hard times of quarantine and now they just needed a little help getting their house under control. The cooperation and open-mindedness that this client had toward their house and their desire for it to be a better place was half of the battle won. What mattered most was not visible; they just needed some help decluttering and going through forgotten boxes. Clutter and habits are a lot easier to address when we are coming from a place of loving-kindness. It is one thing to be fed 4


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up with the amount of work that it takes to have a happy home, it’s another thing to let the home truly reflect who you are on the inside. We can have spotless homes filled with beautiful, expensive things but without heart. I’d rather have a messy home with love than a loveless home that’s clean. We can’t hold it all, though. We have to be realistic about our approach and evaluate our decisions, big and small. As I emerge from the worst of the pandemic, I find that there are not enough hours in the day to check off everything on the to-do list. I grew accustomed to a slower pace of life and took the year of quarantine

to rebuild and cleanse my home after accepting that there is nothing wrong with asking an abusive partner to leave. This means that I am juggling far more than I used to, but in reality the load was never 50-50. There has been a lot of emotional unpacking and healing involved that takes energy as well. My home and life have changed so significantly, it is undeniable that I have changed too. Amidst the busy day, there might still be sadness and loss, but there is no doubt that I am experiencing a peace in my home that I never have experienced before, and it’s absolutely lovely. As I move forward with this new lease on life, it makes it far easier to evaluate what and who comes into my home. When we are tired of living in mess, dysfunction and dirt, it can be worth considering if those you surround yourself with are part of the problem. I recently had friends over for dinner. Although it appeared that not much had changed in my life, my views on friendship have shifted so drastically after quarantine that I found myself becoming agitated and frustrated at the content and quality of our evening.




We can have spotless homes filled with beautiful, expensive things but without heart. I’d rather have a messy home with love than a loveless home that’s clean.” I realized that the people in my home had no idea who I was anymore and we had no point of relation like we did before the pandemic. Too much had happened and I didn’t want to ignore that. Never in my life had I asked people to leave my home until this great moment. Never had I seen people get up and leave so quickly with a snide remark: “I hope you can find peace.” The truth is, I felt peace the moment they left. Was it wrong to ask them to leave, or would have it been more wrong to grin and pretend like nothing was upsetting me? I think I made the right choice and I’m proud that I did the hard and uncomfortable thing. Home is sacred and I want to keep it that way. When we open our homes to our past patterns and relationships, we must be careful and discerning. Use your newfound awareness to let only peace enter and stay in your heart and home. We can elevate to a new standard of behaviors and boundaries when we step into this new way of being. So next time when you look at your mess and dirt, remember to ask yourself: “Does my home have good bones?” lois volta is a home life consultant, artist and founder of The Volta Way. Send questions to

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bike talk

A Hub with Spokes New Black- and Latino-owned shop aims to expand the cycling community by randy lobasso


here’s a new bike shop in town, and for co-owners Adena Brewington-Brown, Michael Brown and Isaiah Urbino, it’s about way more than selling bikes. The trio—a married couple and their “third wheel”—wants The Tricycle Shop to be a community space where everyone will feel welcome and comfortable. Setting up shop in the same location that housed Riverbend Cycles, along the Schuylkill River Trail in Conshohocken, Brewington-Brown and Brown were preparing for a late-July grand opening when they spoke to Grid about the new business. This interview has been edited for clarity, length and style. What made you want to open a bike shop? Adena: Riding my bike around Philly as a

kid was something that was exciting for me. I’m from North Philly; we lived close to Kelly Drive, so we would ride our bikes as kids. As an adult, I got a hybrid bike in 2016, and I realized how much I still enjoyed riding. Our goal now is just to create an inclusive space for folks to come into, especially because Michael and I are African American. Our partner, Isaiah, is of Latino background. We’re minorities within the cycling community, and we want to have a safe space for all people. There is definitely a need for a new kind of bike shop and a new kind of bike shop owner in some regards. Michael: I agree with you on that.

Being a cyclist and going from riding a Walmart bike and then upgrading—it felt like a lot of the places that I would go to, you just don’t see people like me. The clubs that I went out to ride with were not very welcoming. When I went to certain bike shops, they just didn’t make me feel like I belonged. Not that it was their job to do, but it’s customer service—so it kind of was. It is their job. Michael: You know, in a lot of shops, you’d

Michael Brown, co-owner of The Tricycle Shop, outside the storefront.

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see the advertisements on the wall. You look on the wall and all you saw were middle-aged white guys that were built like a string bean, you know what I mean? That’s the demographic that has been in cycling for quite some time. And you know what? If you want to see P HOTO G RAP H BY M ILTO N LI NDSAY

the change, you’ve got to be the change. That made me want to build an inclusive space, and not just for Black cyclists, but for Asian cyclists, Hispanic cyclists, female cyclists, LGBTQ cyclists. You don’t see that often. Even people with larger bodies. There is no market for them in cycling. So you have all of these people who don’t have a home, basically. I want people to come into our shop and say, “I saw a picture on the wall of someone who looked just like me.” That goes a long way. Just seeing those little things go a long way. I wanted to create a space that was welcoming to everyone, like a car dealership.

secondary to some of those insecurities. We think our shop can help break down barriers. There are so many disciplines in the world that need champions for that.

a personal collection that’s for sale. It’s like you’re selling your babies. But I like it. I love the bikes. To be able to share that with other people is also pretty dope.

What kind of bikes do you plan on selling? Is it going to be across the board, or are you going to focus on one thing? Michael: Well, our main brand is going to

You intend for this to be a community space, too? Michael: Yeah, I think that it’s worth noting

For sure. Almost everybody can see

So you’ve already been building

themselves in a car, not everybody can see themselves on a bike. Adena: Having people of different back-

and selling your own bikes? Michael: I have one at the shop now that has

grounds and body types, I think, gives people an understanding that this is not a sport that really is defined by a type or a specific type of person. There are so many people who won’t even consider bicycling as a sport or for leisure. And it could be

be Specialized. We’ll also have Jamis. We’ll have Yuba bikes, cargo and electric bikes, and Head bikes for entry-level stuff. We also have our own brand called Built by Brown, and we will be building custom bikes through that brand.

not been sold yet. I sold one already. The one that I have now is absolutely beautiful. And I have one that I’m building that is—they’re very, very nice. They’re regular branded bikes, but we strip them down, we repaint them, put a little bit of a flare on them. And it’s more of

that it’s a bicycle repair shop, it’s a café, but we’re also going to be utilizing it as a community center. So our plan is to do financial literacy, credit management, business management, those types of things. We’re also doing community events out of the shop that are not cycling-related. Adena’s in women’s health, and she will also be leading some health seminars out of the shop. Adena: And we’ll be doing some events and art curation. Our space is unique because it’s a house that was built in 1910. It’s a cool spot, and we’ll have the opportunity to showcase artwork or will have part of the café seating area for people who have a collection, to do a presentation, or, really, for any use folks want.

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urban naturalist

Haven on Earth Cemetery group seeks to balance honoring the dead and promoting wildlife by bernard brown


traddling the border between Southwest Philadelphia and Delaware County, Mount Moriah Cemetery has long been one of my favorite places to observe wildlife. I turn up salamanders and snakes. I watch deer watch me before snorting in alarm and bounding away, white tails flashing. More than once a red fox has kept an eye on me from down a long path between the headstones. Each encounter has been a pleasure but, unfortunately, a pleasure tempered by a little guilt and sadness. Force of Nature One of the reasons Mount Moriah has been such a great place to observe wildlife is its 8 GRID P H I L LY.CO M JU LY 2 0 21

state of neglect. Impenetrable thickets of Japanese knotweed cover many sections. Others are dominated by sassafras. Elsewhere, gravestones are barely visible amid meadows of wavy grass, and growing trees push monuments aside by another half-inch every year until they topple to the ground. The cemetery opened in 1855 as a beautifully landscaped “bucolic” cemetery designed to serve as a park as much as a burial ground. It was operated by the Mount Moriah Cemetery Association, the last member of which died around 2004, according to Jennifer O’Donnell, board secretary for the Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery. The cemetery subsequently closed to burials in 2011, by which point much of the cemetery’s nearly 200 acres had been ceded to nature.

That wild character of the abandoned cemetery might make for great nature watching, but it gets in the way of the cemetery’s role as a place where people can remember and visit deceased loved ones. “First and foremost this place is a cemetery,” explains O’Donnell, as we walk around its Philadelphia side. “We want people to be able to access the graves of their family members. So looking at a hillside like this, where there is so much overgrowth, you can’t just walk in there. That doesn’t meet the [access] requirement for us.” Green-to-Gray Ratio The volunteer friends group started up in 2011. Since then it has been working to hack away at the vegetation, repair P HOTO G RAP HY BY D RE W DENNI S

Heather Kostick is a Drexel graduate student researching biodiversity at local cemeteries.

Trying to find the balance where people can still access and visit, but it’s not manicured grass, is the biggest challenge.” — jennifer o’donnell , Friends of Mount Moriah Board Secretary

damaged monuments, and help family members locate graves. Lucky for nature lovers like me, the friends are also working to keep some of the cemetery’s wild character. “We also are not looking for golf course– manicured ground,” says O’Donnell. “Trying to find the balance where people can still access and visit, but it’s not manicured grass, is the biggest challenge.” The friends group’s Green Team has been figuring out what this might look like. On a warm morning in May I joined O’Donnell, Green Team members Jo Cosgrove and Kate Benisek, as well as Heather Kostick, a Drexel graduate student studying cemetery biodiversity, to walk through Mount Moriah and talk about their work.

We paused at a grove of tree of heaven, an invasive East Asian species that is difficult to kill and that serves as a favorite host for the infamous (and also invasive) spotted lanternfly. A yellow warbler sang overhead. Although unanimous in their decision to clear the trees and replace them with native evergreens that would be more valuable for wildlife, the group debated the details of how to proceed: cut it all down at once and lose the shade or do it gradually year by year? How would the all-volunteer group pay for the new saplings and then tend them as they spread their roots and got established? How would they get water to that patch of hillside, far from any spigots? Other similar cemeteries in Philadelphia operate with paid staff and contractors, and

the differences in management style offer Kostick an interesting angle for studying biodiversity in urban greenspaces. “I thought it would be cool to look at the biodiversity of cemeteries because they’re often overlooked as urban green spaces. And urban green spaces are often seen as these islands of green in a sea of gray and brown,” she explains. Kostick, who found her initial research project looking at snails in Jamaica scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to shift her attention to habitat she could access without crossing international borders. She’s studying the plants and animals (including snails) at Mount Moriah as well as at Laurel Hill Cemetery and The Woodlands. For example, she is trapping flying insects and comparing what she finds at each cemetery. All three cemeteries have embraced their role as spaces for nature as well as for memory. The Woodlands, for example, offers regular nature walks as well as events celebrating nocturnal wildlife like bats and fireflies. The week after my visit with Kostick and the volunteers, I returned for a walk with my 2-year-old daughter. We followed deer tracks and listened to singing birds (logging 29 species that morning). We enjoyed the vivid purple of spiderwort blooming along a path. We’ll keep coming back as the cemetery finds a new balance between human history and nature. J ULY 20 21 G R I DP H ILLY.COM 9


Information Overflow Philly floods—a lot. The city’s floodplain expert tells us what we need to know by bernard brown


an Francisco has its earthquakes and Miami has its hurricanes, but the disaster Philadelphia most often confronts is flooding. Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the country, with Pennsylvania experiencing the most flood occurrences of any of the 50 states. And climate change all but promises that the near future will be wetter, so what is Philly facing down the road? I spoke with Josh Lippert, the City of Philadelphia’s floodplain manager, to find out. Can you start by going over some types of floodplains we have in Philadelphia? There’s the Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] 1% floodplain [formerly known as the 100-year floodplain], which can be riverine—creek, streams and rivers—where they can top their banks and flood fringe areas, and there are coastal floodplains.

We have tidal fluctuation in the Delaware River so high tides can flood areas around the Ben Franklin Bridge and other areas. Also, a hurricane can come up the Delaware and cause storm surge and wave action, so that’s the local coastal floodplain here in Philadelphia. The 1% designation means that in a given year there is a 1% chance a flood will occur to the extent shown on the map. FEMA changed the terminology to make it more accessible, given the fact that every year there’s that 1% annual chance versus one in a hundred years. Flooding doesn’t just happen along FEMAdesignated floodplains, right? Can you talk about how it also occurs where streams and creeks were turned into storm sewers when Philadelphia was built up over 100 years ago? We like to call these urban floodplains or infrastructure floodplains. [These areas]

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can experience what we call infrastructure flooding in larger or more severe storm events. Rainwater takes over the storm sewers, the combined sewers, and it has nowhere to go but on land. So it goes onto roadways, into yards and even into basements.

We actually have been developing a lot of public information guides and we have one for Germantown that talks specifically about infrastructure flooding. The Wingohocking Creek that used to run through Germantown was piped in the early 1900s. Where that creek once ran is now a low point within the neighborhood. When the combined sewer gets to capacity during larger rain events, it can cause backups into basements. Also, the streets can become like rivers in larger flood events. The [Philadelphia] Water Department has a program so that in certain areas where there are infrastructure flooding problems, you can get a free backwater prevention valve put onto your sewage lateral, so that when the sewer does become overwhelmed it doesn’t back up into your property. How is global warming going to change flooding in Philadelphia? Flooding is already the number one natural hazard here in Philadelphia, and it’s likely to become more and more prevalent by the end of the century. My colleagues at the

Office of Sustainability have done some science around the future of sea-level rise.

The 1% chance floodplain is likely to be expanded into what is currently known as the 0.2% chance floodplain [formerly the 500-year floodplain]. So there will be an expansion of the 1% floodplain as well as the amount of areas that will be either chronically inundated or permanently inundated by sea-level rise. What can Philadelphians do to protect themselves from flooding? It is a traumatic event if you’ve ever gone through a flood. We have residents that still have not fully recovered from [Tropical Storm Isaias on] August 4, 2020. They’re still without hot water and heat in some cases.

The No. 1 thing is to know your flood risk. Look at the flood maps. If you’ve ever had a basement backup or if you see signs of water coming into your basement, reach out to the water department. Whether you’re at the top or the bottom of a hill in Philadelphia, you can experience flooding. If you don’t have flood insurance, explore flood insurance options, whether it’s through the National Flood Insurance Program or private insurance, that is the best way to at least rebound more quickly. If you live in the FEMA 1% floodplain, you’re only required to have flood insurance if you have a mortgage or a federally backed bank loan against your property. If you own your property outright or if you say it hasn’t flooded here in many years, you might let your policy lapse or not have a policy. Unfortunately, our numbers of flood insurance policies are actually dropping, so public information is at the forefront of how we’re trying to prepare our residents.

COMING DOWN TO EARTH When asked if he lived in a floodplain, Lippert shared that he lives in Center City now but would soon be moving to a house in Graduate Hospital. “It’s not in a floodplain there,” says Lippert. “There’s a lot of reasons for that, obviously, but there are a lot of studies—not specific to Philadelphia—that show that homes in floodplains are overvalued and are likely to start depreciating much faster as climate change impacts our cities.”


Josh Lippert, the City of Philadelphia’s floodplain manager, in front of the Fairmount Dam at the Fairmount Water Works.

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healers in the city

Love and Pain Inspired despite their grief, two mothers of shooting victims organized to help others like themselves by constance garcia-barrio


was awake, curled in bed in a fetal position, about a year after my son, Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson was killed over a parking space,” says Dorothy Johnson-Speight, founder and executive director of Mothers In Charge (MIC), which assists parents of murdered children. “I had a vision where grieving mothers with bullhorns stood in a boxing ring near 22nd Street and Cecil B. Moore, the area where I grew up, telling their sons to put down the guns. God was telling me what to do with my pain.” Taking Action Johnson-Speight got to work. “Over the past 18 years, thousands of mothers have joined MIC,” she says. “I would say the mothers of half [of ] the murder victims in the city come to us.” Michelle Kerr-Spry, 57, is one of those mothers. “My son Blaine Spry, at 18, was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was visiting a friend in the Northeast,” says Kerr-Spry. “One day [after Blaine’s death] I felt like my heart would just stop beating.” Kerr-Spry, of Mount Airy, received grief counseling and support from MIC. “I got stronger,” she says. “I healed to the point where I could live.” Mothers In Charge focuses on healing families, educating the public and preventing murder. Besides a 24/7 hotline, the organization offers onthe-scene support. “It’s important to reach out to families right away and assure them they’re not alone, that we’ll be here to support them with wellness checks as they go through their trauma,” says Johnson-Speight. MIC provides group and individual counseling for family members, as well as courtroom support. Johnson-Speight also strives to educate the public about murder. Initiatives like Operation LIPSTICK (Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop To Inner City Killings) help discourage women from 12 GR ID P H IL LY.CO M JU LY 2 0 21



Right now, the city is on pace to rack up more than 600 gun murders in 2021—a grim new high— according to Jennifer Arbittier Williams, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Greene, Johnson-Speight and other sources offer tips on reducing violence in Philadelphia and healing from its impact: Make time to talk with a

young person if you feel they may be leaning toward violence. It takes only one concerned adult to change the course of a young life. Support laws that require background checks for all private sales of firearms and that restrict multiple sales of firearms. In 2005 Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce

buying, hiding and carrying guns for people who can’t pass the background check. In addition, MIC works to root out causes of murder. Its preventive programs include workshops on solving problems without violence, as well as on anger management. “Lots of violence stems from people not knowing how to handle anger,” Johnson-Speight says. “City courts and the Philadelphia [Adult] Probation and Parole Department refer people to us for a nine-week course in anger management.” A mentoring program helps to reach vulnerable young people before they turn to guns. “Young men with absent fathers may tell themselves, ‘If my father doesn’t want me, then I must not be worth much,’ ” Johnson-Speight says. “That belief puts them at risk, but mentors can help them see their worth.” MIC also has a reentry program that assists women before they leave prison and afterward. “One woman wrote to us because her son was killed while she was in prison,” says Johnson-Speight. “If the mother was the sole head of the household before being incarcerated, she may not know where her children are. We help in that respect, too. We also aid women returning from incarceration to connect with job training.”

Dorothy JohnsonSpeight founded the group Mothers In Charge after her son Khaaliq Jabbar Johnson (seen in frame) was murdered over a parking space.

Space and Support Victoria Greene, 72, of Germantown, whose son Emir died in 1997 at age 20 in a drug-related dispute, also received an unusual gift. “God gave me the ability to listen to murder stories,” Greene says. “I’ve heard hundreds of them over the years.” A social worker retired from the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, Greene founded the Every Murder Is Real Healing Center (EMIR, named for her son) in 1999, a nonprofit located in Germantown.

in Arms Act (PLCAA), which gives gun manufacturers broad immunity from being sued by victims of gun violence and their families. Write to your federal legislators and ask them to repeal this law. Support ending gag orders that prevent pediatricians in some states (not Pennsylvania) from asking about guns in the home.

“After Emir’s murder, I stayed in bed for a month,” says Greene, a divorced mother of five. “I didn’t want to live.” Greene’s two older daughters took care of the two younger ones during the early months. Joining a grief-assistance group proved crucial. The group, which used to meet near the medical examiner’s office, has since disbanded. “Sharing with people who’d had a murder in the family helped,” Greene says. EMIR provides free grief counseling for families and friends of murder victims as well as courtroom advocacy and support, nutrition counseling and help with victim compensation claims that reimburse funeral costs. Grief counseling groups meet for eight weeks on Tuesdays. “First, we all have a meal together to build community,” Greene says. “Afterward, support groups for men, women and children meet separately because each group has different needs. For example, children may not be able to express themselves in words, so we use art and music. Kids often feel angry. When the therapist asked one little boy to make a picture of how he felt, he drew an erupting volcano.” EMIR helped professional storyteller and music therapist Irma Gardner-Hammond, of Mount Airy, endure the loss of her son. “My son Eric, at 27, was shot on April 28, 2019, at an ATM,” she says. “He died on May 5, [2019]. At EMIR, I can talk about my feelings, even the crazy ones, and know I won’t be judged.” Philadelphia had 499 murders in 2020—a 40% increase (356) as compared to 2019. Although EMIR provides a key service, Greene finds herself scrounging for funds. “Healing from murder isn’t a cute or sexy topic,” she says. “And women of color who head smaller organizations often struggle for funding.” J ULY 20 21 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 13

FLOCKING TOGETHER Audubon employees have unionized for better conditions, but the national organization has yet to recognize the collective story by bernard brown


ast fall labor organizers at the National Audubon Society began asking non-managerial staff at the 116-year-old environmental organization whether they would like to form a union in partnership with Communications Workers of America (CWA). A majority of staff, including workers in Philadelphia, voted yes, but Audubon has yet to recognize the group as an entity that can collectively bargain on the staff’s behalf.

Behind the Movement Bria Wimberly is an environmental educator for Audubon at The Discovery Center, which serves as the base of operations for the Philadelphia Outward Bound School. She felt the need to unionize after seeing the national organization engage in layoffs. She has also been appalled by its handling of issues involving BIPOC and LGBTQ staff. An internal survey in March 2020 revealed widespread staff discontentment, particularly among BIPOC and LGBTQ workers. Audubon’s vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion, Deeohn Ferris, left the organization that same month. Devon Trotter, a specialist in the same department, left later in 2020. According to a November 12, 2020, report in Politico, pressure from executive leadership led to Ferris’s departure, as well as that of Trotter, who cited intimidation from then-CEO David Yarnold.

photography by drew dennis

In response to the report in Politico, Audubon commissioned an investigation by the law firm Morgan Lewis. The resulting report found “a culture of retaliation, fear and antagonism toward women and people of color.” The report also affirmed that decision-making at Audubon was concentrated among a group of white male executives. That executive team laid off 108 employees in 2020, according to reporting by E&E News. They chose Earth Day to terminate 64 of the positions. Jose Santiago, center coordinator at The Discovery Center for Audubon, had been working with colleagues to produce a video to run on Earth Day 2020. “Some of our colleagues that worked on the project with us got laid off, and it made [the possibility of ] getting laid off seem very, very real,” Santiago says. Santiago and Wimberly say that having a union recognized by management will make Audubon jobs more secure. They also seek to create a more collaborative culture at the organization, so that diverse voices will be heard. “Most of the decisions made [within] Audubon aren’t usually communicated with the people that they’re going to affect the most,” Wimberly says. “Having that transparency is definitely something that we’ll get with the union.” The union, dubbed Audubon for All, has made demands including more equitable

Most of the decisions made [within] Audubon aren’t usually communicated with the people that they’re going to affect the most.” — bria wimberly, Audubon environmental educator

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hiring as well as more transparent supervision and career development practices. “So that we know when we’re up for reevaluation. We know when we’re eligible for raises. We know what we need to do to be promoted to the next level so we have a clear path up to management,” Santiago explains. “Those are the things that we could talk about together and negotiate with Audubon to make the workplace a more equitable space.” The Discovery Center, where Santiago and Wimberly work, is jointly operated by Outward Bound and Audubon Mid-Atlantic, a regional branch of the national organization. Audubon’s network also includes independent local chapters, most of which are volunteer-run, including Valley Forge and Wyncote. Wyncote Audubon President Leigh Altadonna is in favor of the unionization effort. “Unions do help, from my perspective,” he says. “I find it helps to regularize procedures around evaluation, hiring and dismissal. A strong union helps make a strong organization.”

Differing Perspectives Audubon has hired the law firm Littler Mendelson, known for advising employers about busting union organizing efforts, a move that organizers point to as an indication of Audubon’s opposition to unionization. A spokesperson for Audubon says, “Audubon retained a law firm to advise the organization to ensure we are meeting all our legal obligations to employees during this process.” CWA filed a complaint in March 2021 claiming that Audubon was illegally interfering with its employees’ unionization effort. On April 20 Yarnold, Audubon’s CEO, resigned. President and Chief Conservation Officer Elizabeth Gray, who is serving as interim CEO, has so far declined to recognize the union. The National Labor Relations Board

Jose Santiago and Bria Wimberly are part of the effort to unionize workers at Audubon.

(NLRB), the federal agency that oversees union formation, defines two paths to unionization. One is a vote conducted by the NLRB. If a majority of eligible staff vote yes, the NLRB certifies the union. The other, which Audubon for All is pursuing, is when an employer voluntarily recognizes a union based on an indication of staff support. On May 27 CWA announced that Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts had counted the cards submitted and confirmed that a majority of eligible staff had voted for the union.

Audubon has not voluntarily recognized the union, in spite of the vote’s results. “Audubon respects the right of employees to unionize and it supports a fair, open and democratic election process that would allow all union-eligible employees to make a private choice for themselves,” an Audubon spokesperson tells Grid. “This process would be managed and overseen by the federal National Labor Relations Board, and Audubon would respect the outcome of that election.” Audubon for All regards the national

organization’s stance in favor of an NLRBconducted vote as a delaying tactic, noting that several other national environmental organizations have recently unionized through voluntary recognition. Examples from 2020 include, Greenpeace USA and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Wimberly and Santiago say that, for now, Audubon for All will continue organizing. “We are not done,” says Santiago, “and will not be done until Audubon recognizes our union.” J ULY 20 21 G R I DP HI LLY.COM 1 5

Vance Lehmkuhl, of the American Vegan Society, shows off the organization’s American Vegan Center in Old City at its soft opening event.

VEGAN CENTRAL New venue offers a place to discover plant-based food and history story by patrick kerr


hen you think of historic Philadelphia, images of the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence and the Betsy Ross House might come to mind. Now add the genesis of the vegetarian and vegan movements to that list, says the American Vegan Society (AVS). On June 15 the national nonprofit held a soft opening of the American Vegan Center at 17 N. 2nd Street in Old City to enlighten Philadelphians and tourists alike about our rich vegan history, as well as the role Philly continues to play in the nation’s vegan movement. The idea for a venue came in 2015 to Vance Lehmkuhl, AVS’s marketing and communications director, and a now-AVS colleague as they meandered along South Jersey’s shoreline, covering its vegan 16 GRID P H IL LY.CO M JU LY 2 0 21

eateries for Lehmkuhl’s “V for Veg” column, which ran in The Philadelphia Inquirer for 16 years. The core of the center’s offerings will be a walking tour in the Old City vicinity, highlighting Philly’s vegan history. Lehmkuhl, a Philadelphia-based vegan writer and historian, has developed the tour after years of research. The tour, he says, will offer context for how America’s vegetarian and vegan movements began. “Vegan thinking isn’t something that just arose in the last few years,” he says. “There’s a long historical thread.” Lehmkuhl has meticulously mapped out where vegans around Philly have made their marks over the years. The tour goes over interesting historical threads, such as how the Hermits of

the Wissahickon, a 17th-century German mystic and his followers, were connected to the vegan movement. Women, abolitionists and other notable Philadelphians contributed to the vegan movement and established organizations and societies that exist to this day, such as the Morris Animal Refuge that was borne out of the Women’s Humane Society. With its historical location, the American Vegan Center hopes to capitalize on foot traffic, especially tourists who are not normally connected through social media channels. “People are going to see the word vegan. They’re going to see that there is a vegan center and are going to have to think, ‘Wow, is veganism really so mainstream now that there’s actually this place that you can just go and get vegan info?’ And yes, it is,” says Lehmkuhl. “The intent is to serve people today … whether they’re vegan or just interested in trying some of the latest vegan food.” A storefront with vegan books, cooking classes, presentations and discussions will be opened at the 2nd Street address at a later date.

MANAGE STORMWATER SUSTAINABLY TO PROTECT THE DELAWARE Climate change is bringing more intense rainstorms to the Mid-Atlantic Region. As a result of these trends, the art and science of managing stormwater is becoming more complicated. Even moderate rain events and brief but powerful downpours cause flooding and carry pollutants like motor oil, trash, fertilizer, pesticides, and animal waste into local bodies of water, threatening the health of local ecosystems and making many of our waterways unsuitable for recreation. New Jersey Future is committed to helping communities manage stormwater challenges. Mainstreaming Green Infrastructure (MGI) is a New Jersey Future program aimed at moving green stormwater infrastructure practices into common practice. MGI works with state agencies, developers, and municipalities to increase the use of green infrastructure to achieve environmental, public health, and economic benefits. New Jersey Future has resources to help you implement GI in your community. Visit our Green Infrastructure Municipal Toolkit and Green Infrastructure Developers Guide to learn more. To stay up to date, subscribe to the free New Jersey Future newsletter and sign up for MGI email updates.

WHAT IS GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE? Green infrastructure (GI) is a group of stormwater management practices that rely on the natural water cycle, rather than pipes and storm sewers, to manage rain, stormwater, and snowmelt. Green infrastructure enables this water to soak into the ground where it falls or captures it for beneficial reuse.

New Jersey Future (NJF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes sensible and equitable growth, redevelopment, and infrastructure investments to foster healthy, strong, resilient communities. NJF does this through original research, innovative policy development, coalition-building, advocacy, and hands-on strategic assistance. NJF is firmly committed to pursuing greater justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion through its programs, internal operations, and external communications.

WWW.NJFUTURE.ORG East Park Canoe House, Philadelphia, PA Image Credit: E&LP, 2020

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Delivery start-up unpacks our packaging problem

The Rounds delivers orders in reusable bags. The bags can be placed outside customers’ doors to be collected and reused the day of their next order.

ROUNDING story by patrick kerr — photography by linette & kyle kielinski


lexander torrey’s business idea came to him shortly after he ran out of hand soap. He’d placed an order for another bottle online, and when the replacement arrived, he was dismayed. “It came in a box the size of my kitchen table,” he remembers. He opened the package, pulled out the soap and put it beside his sink, then paused on his way to the trash can with the old container. “There’s nothing wrong with it, other than it’s empty and it’s maybe 90 days old,” he recalls thinking. Then Torrey did the math. What if everyone in his 500-unit high-rise was doing the same? What if everyone in the five high-rises around his was ordering replacements online, too? That’s a lot of packaging in the trash can, he thought, there has to be a better way. We live in a world where blue Amazon vans and cardboard boxes abound.

Containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste, amounting to 82.2 million tons in 2018 (28.1% of total waste). Theoretically, all cardboard can be recycled, however, more than half is burned or winds up in a landfill. Torrey set out to create a delivery company that would address the convenience consumers enjoy when they order household items from Amazon, but without all of the packaging. The result is The Rounds. When customers place orders at, they add items from a selection of household, personal care and pantry products. They sell coffee, soymilk, local breads, as well as various foods in bulk like nuts, pasta, rice, oats and olive oil. Other offerings include dishwasher pods, glass cleaner, disinfecting wipes, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and various bath and hand soaps. Currently, The Rounds serves Center City and its surrounding neighborhoods: north, from

“If we continue the status quo of today’s individual-box-to-door model, cities will see more trucks and trash on our streets.” — byungwoo ko, The Rounds co-founder 18 GR ID P H I L LY.CO M JU LY 2 0 21


Fairmount to Fishtown, and south, from Graduate Hospital to Queen Village, as well as several West Philly zip codes.

raised in a “teach a man to fish” household, Torrey, 34, describes himself as a social entrepreneur who wants to do good and do well. His first taste of the start-up world was a venture with his brother to amplify children’s art by printing it on clothing. They followed “a very non-traditional path” and ended up pitching the idea on “Shark Tank,” he says. Despite early success getting their clothing into Bloomingdales, the company’s trajectory felt stunted, cast as a “lifestyle business,” Torrey says, “which is just a way for start-up people to say it’s a business that isn’t gonna raise a ton of venture capital but is by every other definition a very decent business.”

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Ultimately, Torrey realized it wasn’t for him. “Since then, I knew I wanted another opportunity to build a start-up that can have a really big impact,” he says. Torrey arrived at the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2019 equipped with his start-up idea for The Rounds, the zero-waste delivery company. The prior year he spent at a start-up accelerator, an organization that helped him develop his product and hone his business model. Business school, in Torrey’s eyes, is “a springboard to get access to really great resources, be around really great people and accelerate the idea … knowing that Philadelphia is a really great place to test the idea.” Launched in 2020, The Rounds estimates an average customer could save about 40 to 50 pounds of packaging waste per year by using its service. The Rounds’ other co-founder, Byungwoo Ko, affectionately known as BK, 33, is a graduate of Wharton who brings operations and logistics experience from his previous gig at Uber, where he helped with the launch of UberEats. Torrey and Ko met as classmates at Wharton. When the pandemic hit, Torrey withdrew from school to focus on The Rounds, which was then under the moniker Mlkmn. Ko graduated and agreed

A selection of reusable kitchen goods from The Rounds: coffee, green tea, rolled oats, English breakfast tea, Cheerios, pasta, pistachios, olive oil and quinoa.

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to spend the summer working with Torrey on the start-up idea. Ko says what drew him in was the unique opportunity the business model presents: a chance to reimagine how goods are distributed in urban settings. “If we continue the status quo of today’s individual-box-to-door model, cities will see more trucks and trash on our streets,” Ko explains. But by setting up new transportation models, he believes they could create a delivery method that’s better for consumers and the planet. “Everything comes in a reusable bag,” Torrey explains, adding that customers can then leave out any refillable containers in the bag the following week. The toilet paper is placed in cotton bags, Torrey explains, and liquids like cleaners are put in reusable spray bottles. “Almost all of our pantry products are in

some version or another of a reusable glass jar,” he says. “Every product we have, we have found a way to truly cut out packaging waste and make it where we can come back, pick it up and reuse it.” Heading the new trade organization Circular Philadelphia, dedicated to making circular economies as mainstream as organic food, Nic Esposito says it’s not about cutting waste in a business model like The Rounds, but looking at packaging as a company resource. “It means looking at ways that you can take the outputs, which is your product, and then turn them back into the inputs that create more outputs, creating a feedback loop,” he says. If more businesses switch to this model, he explains, it will “lead to a breakthrough in product development, product usage and hopefully lower consumption, and lower the waste that goes into products.”

“The doorstep drop-off and pick-up allows us to put very little effort into reducing waste in our house.” — v ictoria gray, The Rounds customer

What also makes The Rounds different is that it’s a schedule-based service. This helped inform the company’s recent rebranding from Mlkmn, which was meant to evoke the old memory of a milkman delivering daily to your doorstep. “We use the phrase like ‘we make the rounds’ … we make the rounds in your neighborhood every Tuesday. We’ll come with your stuff for next week and we’ll pick up your empties,” says Torrey. The North Star of the technology, as Torrey describes it, is to “keep you stocked without you even having to think about it.” Similar to what shoppers find at Trader Joe’s, The Rounds offers one type of each product for customers. “It’s about [being on] autopilot. It’s about thinking less. People don’t want to think about trash bags, they want to open the cabinet below the kitchen sink, reach down and have a good trash bag, and you want it to be quality, you want it to be sustainable … and you just want it to be there and never think about it.” The Rounds’ team texts its members to ask what items they need and when pickups and drop-offs should occur. According to Ko, the company’s logistics system has been holding up well. “People have quickly realized they don’t really need a super-fast delivery for things

that shouldn’t be time-sensitive,” Ko says. “Package theft is also a concern for some members, so we’ve been testing innovative ways to deter or prevent, like easy-to-use locks or partnering with local shops.” Victoria Gray, of Queen Village, uses The Rounds for her family, seeking to eliminate their single-use plastic. “I have found a couple of brands [and] services that work for me, but it’s been difficult finding an affordable one-stop shop,” she says. “We are a family of five, so affordability is key. We go through so many household products in a week.” Gray says The Rounds’ products are reasonably priced and also notes the delivery system offers convenience. “The doorstep drop-off and pick-up allows us to put very little effort into reducing waste in our house,” she says. “Other services I’ve experimented with in the past require you to ship containers back and forth, which just doesn’t feel sustainable and adds an extra errand to our already busy schedules.” Still at the beginning stages of the ambitious mission to become a scalable zero-waste delivery company, The Rounds operates within the constraints of producers who initially package the goods that operation managers then distribute to the company’s “neighborhood refillment centers,”

The Rounds delivers orders on e-bikes.

or NRCs. At the moment, the only NRC is at the Rittenhouse Claridge apartment building in Rittenhouse Square, but the second NRC is slated to open this summer. “Our NRCs are designed to be hyper-efficient spaces with nano-footprints. In the Rittenhouse Claridge, for example, we use 250 square feet. Ironically, the space was their old package room that was too small for the volume of packages that the building receives,” says Torrey. The Rounds currently has four full-time operations managers who are responsible for all fulfillment and deliveries, according to Torrey. Torrey notes “all neighborhoods are e-bikeable,” and hinted at an upcoming pilot with the Kensington-based e-bike maker Junto. As The Rounds develops, Torrey hopes that the business will be able to gain more bargaining power up the supply chain. “This means eventually being able to have a slightly louder voice when we go to our manufacturing partners or our distributor partners, to be able to say, ‘Hey, we want to get all this product without any packaging. We want to do it this way,’ ” he explains. while the rounds’ scheduled last-mile, closed-loop delivery model is different from other services commonplace on the market, Torrey believes it is the right model for the future. Sure, The Rounds sells zero-waste household products, but Torrey says that’s not all the company is selling to customers. “The biggest room for improvement is in how you get the products, not the products themselves,” says Torrey. “There’s much, much more bang for our buck, from a sustainability-impact perspective, to change the way that you’re getting things,” he says. All The Rounds’ NRCs will serve areas within a one- or two-mile radius, so delivery people are able to walk or bike to all drop-off points. Esposito says the company is in a good place to take advantage of the market transformation seen over the last year. “People are ordering stuff like crazy from home. Our relationship to the supermarket has changed a lot during the pandemic,” Esposito says. “Now it’s about, ‘How do we create systems with this opportunity that, as people’s buying habits are changing, incorporate more circularity?’ ” J ULY 20 21 G R I DP HILLY.COM 21

torrey believes The Rounds is at an advantage in that its model jibes with cities becoming more pedestrian friendly, compared to big delivery trucks that block bike lanes and take up urban space. “We’re really changing how people get their stuff in cities and in wanting to fundamentally reimagine what is the future of commerce in cities,” he says. Vesela Veleva, co-director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Regional Competitiveness at the University of Massachusetts Boston, thinks it’s great that startups like The Rounds are focusing on fixing the single-use-packaging problem. “I’m a believer that we will see less and less single-use, disposable packaging because this is the problem that has been started by policymakers in Europe,” says Veleva. She thinks the Biden administration might start looking into lessening packaging as Americans’ concerns about the dangers of overconsumption become more mainstream. “I think we’ll see more work in this area, reducing single-use packaging and, again, packaging overall,” she says. “Not in the very near future, but I think this is definitely a trend, and it’s great to see more entrepreneurs entering this area.” Torrey noted that The Rounds is an official partner of the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, which is pushing programs that help Philadelphians move toward zero-waste lifestyles. “Big zero-waste pledges like not sending anything to landfills or incinerators will require big changes,” says Torrey. “This is where The Rounds can step in and help cities accomplish these ambitious goals.”

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Co-founders of The Rounds, Alexander Torrey (left) and Byungwoo Ko, met at Wharton Business School.


-202 2021HOOL SC AR YE

kitchen textiles sold to support urban agriculture

beautiful sustainable practical

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The Energy Co-op is now offering biogas sourced from landfills story by siobhan gleason


lexandra kroger, energy program director at The Energy Coop, is hoping that Phildelphia’s biggest utility providers notice the work they are doing and get inspired. “As the demand for our renewable energy products becomes more apparent, PECO and PGW might see that as a market signal favoring renewable energy,” Kroger says. “We can’t speculate if this will influence their operations, but it might encourage them to expand their own sustainable practices.” The Energy Co-op is already helping to

build local renewable energy production in Pennsylvania by offering renewable electricity, heating oil and what they call “renewable natural gas” (RNG) to member-owners. (The heating oil offered by The Energy Co-op is not renewable.) Its EcoChoice100 Electricity offers members the choice between state- and nationally-sourced provider options, both of which are powered by 99% wind and 1% solar. The Pennsylvania option, which according to Kroger is chosen by 60% of their members, supports the growing local clean energy economy.

Above: Alexandra Kroger, energy program director at The Energy Co-op. Right: Methane from landfills is captured and turned into “renewable natural gas” (RNG).

SWANA’s WASTECON / ISWA World Congress • Baltimore, MD • Sept 2017

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A R T W O R K C O U R T E S Y O F T H E E N E R GY C O - O P


The Energy Co-op also gives its member-owners the option of purchasing RNG. It’s been offering this service to PECO customers living outside of Philadelphia since 2010, and just started providing RNG to PGW customers in 2020. RNG, or biogas, is naturally produced by decomposing organic material in landfills and waste facilities. “Landfills are almost a renewable resource,” Kroger says. “We’re always going to be generating waste—that’s why we call it renewable natural gas.” Landfills produce methane, which can be captured and turned into energy. If methane is not captured, it can reach dangerous and explosive levels. There have been several incidents caused by methane buildup near landfills. An infamous incident occurred in 1986, when a house in Derbyshire, England, was destroyed by a landfill methane explosion. Methane forms an explosive mixture with air at between 5% and 15% methane. It also presents a threat to the planet, Kroger explains. “Methane can have between 25 and 85 times more greenhouse warming potential than carbon dioxide,” Kroger explains. “When it’s burned, it’s going to be converted into a lower potential greenhouse emission.”

RNG is currently more expensive than traditional natural gas, which is extracted through hydraulic fracturing, aka fracking, of shale and other rock formations. “Geological surveys indicate that there are plentiful sources of natural gas. That’s what helps to keep those prices really low, even though the extraction method is very destructive to the environment,” Kroger says, noting that RNG is currently not as plentiful as conventional natural gas, so prices are not as competitive. “The number of facilities that are capturing an adequate volume of biogas and converting it for energy use have a relatively low gas volume compared to fracked gas,” Kroger says. Of course, members of The Energy Coop are often motivated by a concern for the environment and are willing to pay a premium if it helps support the local renewable energy economy. “A lot of people who choose to be part of a co-op are values-driven individuals looking for ways to build more sustainable lives,” explains Jon Roesser, general manager of Weavers Way Co-op, whose members helped found The Energy Co-op in 1979. “I believe there is

JOINING IN To sign up for The Energy Co-op, go to •

Choose one of the energy products and select your local utility, such as PECO, PPL or PGW.

Pricing for each energy source is listed, though prices may vary depending on the utility and personal energy usage.

Once the product and utility is chosen, you’ll provide your address and utility account number.

The Energy Co-op will verify all information to prevent errors. Within three to five days of signing up, The Energy Co-op will become the supplier.

The local utility will remain the distributor, which will continue to deliver energy to your home. The Energy Co-op supplies energy to the distributor, which means that members will not experience a stop in service.

a lot of bargaining power associated with the co-op movement that will only grow.” Richard Tchen, who joined The Energy Co-Op in 2011, became a member-owner be-

cause he wants to suppost a local cooperative with such a powerful and important mission. “Energy is something many of us take for granted, but we can make change.”

You do the choosing, our talented staff does the picking! Members and non-members can shop online — orders are for next day curbside pickup or delivery up to 20 miles.

Hello, the Co-op’s New Online Shopping Partner

Ambler • Chestnut Hill • Mt. Airy

Community-owned markets open to everyone.

First-time users are entitled to

$10 off a purchase of $20 or more. Code: WEAVERSWAY10

For new Mercato customers only—one use per customer.

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PIPE NIGHTMARE Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 ruins quality of life in Delaware County through eminent domain

story by jason n. peters — photography by drew dennis

Glen Riddle Station Apartments abuts Sunoco ‘s construction of the Mariner East 2 pipeline.

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long the long, winding roads of Glen Riddle, a small community close to Media in Delaware County, sits Glen Riddle Station Apartments, a 124-unit complex at the center of yet another Mariner East pipeline controversy. On May 26 more than 200 residents of Glen Riddle Station found themselves without water, and Pennsylvania State Police launched an investigation into the actions of a Sunoco representative. For residents, this is the latest episode in what they see as chronic carelessness and malevolent indifference on Sunoco’s part for those who live near the pipeline.

Energy Transfer LP, Sunoco’s parent company, began construction on the Mariner East 2 pipeline in December 2018. The pipeline has been designed to cross the entirety of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from east to west, moving natural gas liquids across the state. Similar to other large-scale pipeline operations, Mariner East has been plagued by controversy—from issues surrounding permits to being deemed negligent by a Public Utility Commission judge in Delaware and Chester counties. Despite the controversy, Energy Transfer has continued construction. In November 2020, with the backing of state courts, Sunoco exercised eminent domain to claim the privately owned land at Glen Riddle Station. A long, grassy hill separates two of the five apartment buildings from the other three, but for the last six months these buildings have been divided by a wall that’s somewhere between 40 and 50 feet high, meant to dampen the loud sounds and bright lights of drilling and construction work. “This has been a battle since November,” says Steve Iacobucci, one of the owners of Glen Riddle Station. “It’s been a battle to get safety concerns and questions addressed [about] the operation,”’ he explains. Iacobucci is not alone in his concerns about safety. In a virtual council meeting for residents of Middletown Township on April 12, residents raised concerns about safety

and evacuation plans that went unanswered by a Sunoco representative. Energy Transfer Vice President of Corporate Communications Vicki Anderson Granado did not answer the questions Grid asked but provided a statement denying any wrongdoing on Energy Transfer’s part. in late april Sunoco had already been found negligent for not warning residents of Delaware County about the risks posed by a potential leak. In 2017 about 1,000 gallons of natural gas liquids leaked from the Mariner East 1 in Berks County, and an Energy Transfer natural gas liquid pipeline exploded outside of Houston in 2020. “The invasion began in November,” begins Antoinette Nolek, a two-and-a-half year resident of Glen Riddle Station. Nolek cares for her 75-year-old sister with cerebral palsy. “She used to walk around the whole complex, and that was the only exercise that she could get, but now it’s all cut up and her walk is only this sidewalk,” Nolek says. Nolek lives on the first floor of the apartment complex, mere feet away from the wall. “The wall is pretty ugly and it has blocked a lot of sunlight that I once got,” she explains. Nolek and her upstairs neighbor, Miriam Magobet, have lived no more than 20 feet from the wall for the last half year. “I used to have a peaceful life until Energy Transfer came along,” says Magobet.

Steve Iacobucci, one of the owners of Glen Riddle Station, has been advocating for residents’ safety and health concerns around pipeline construction.

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“Right now I have no quality of life. They surrounded my apartment with 50-foot walls, 180 degrees around. I don’t sit on my patio because I have to look at this … wall and I have to listen to the pounding, beeping and drilling noises of the cranes and bulldozers,” she says, choking back tears. Magobet, who is in her fifties, works the night shift as a healthcare worker at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The loud noises of construction often leave her sleep deprived. She describes vibrations in her building that she compares to an earthquake and worries about the safety of the air she breathes. The site of massive bags of Calciment and large plumes of smoke coming from the easement prompted Magobet to purchase an air monitor. She shared her data with Grid, showing that the air quality was unhealthy on a number of occasions. According to a Purple Air sensor, the air at Glen Riddle Station has gone as high as 342 on the U.S. Air Quality Index, which is deemed “hazardous” and an “emergency” by the Air Quality Index. When Grid asked Energy Transfer if they were monitoring air quality, officials did not respond. this spike in poor air quality coincides with a fire that many tenants of Glen Riddle Station claimed to have seen on the construction site on March 2. “There was a fire on the easement. We all ran out and called 9-1-1. We all smelled fire, and at no point in time did they send out a fire truck,” Magobet says. In an April 20 Middletown Township meeting a Sunoco representative denied that a fire took place, saying, “We never had a fire.” Mark Kirchgasser, the chair of Middletown Township Council, who also serves as the public information officer for the Middletown Fire Department says, “There was no fire or emergency.” As a way to curry favor in the communities they operate in, Energy Transfer often donates large sums to sports teams, parks and public utility services. In February Energy Transfer gave $29,931 to the Rocky Run Fire Company, which provides volunteer emergency services to Middletown Township and Glen Riddle. Biljana Todic, 34, a resident of Tunbridge Apartments, which is directly across from Glen Riddle Station, also experienced pipeline construction. She corroborates that she, 28 GRID P H IL LY.CO M JU LY 2 0 21

too, called 9-1-1 but never saw a fire truck. “I was outside around 7:30 p.m. and you could smell smoke, and I looked at Glen Riddle Stationv, which is encased in this giant wall—you could see smoke billowing out,” says Todic. Coincidentally, in 2018, Tunbridge Apartments experienced an incident that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) calls an “inadvertent return.” A 2021 DEP report describes a spill of “50 gallons of drilling solution onto uplands parking lot area near Tunbridge [Apartments], some of the fluid entered the storm

drain inlet which then discharged from the stormwater pipe outfall.” This is just one of more than 100 “inadvertent returns” of fluid into waterways listed in the April 23, 2021 PA DEP report on the Mariner East 2 pipeline. safety remains the primary concern for people living near the Mariner East. In online town halls, residents from around the area are asking for full transparency and evacuation routes in the event of a leak, including accommodations for the disabled to evacuate. Dozens have called into township council meetings, and signs have been

Right now I have no quality of life. They surrounded my apartment with 50-foot walls, 180 degrees around.” — m iriam magobet, Glen Riddle Station resident

erected outside of Glen Riddle Station reading “Protect Us” and “Shame on Sunoco.” Still, tenants of Glen Riddle Station have yet to be provided with a safety plan. The atmosphere at Glen Riddle Station is tense; dozens of construction workers and members of Sunoco’s private security stand guard at the wall with signs plastered stating that Sunoco has the right to record anyone on the premises. When approached for comment, pipeline workers began recording on a bodycam and became adversarial. Ownership at Glen Riddle Station has hired their own security for the comfort of its tenants and has private engineers monitoring the site. In an attempt to “alleviate their disruption” of Glen Riddle Station, Energy Transfer has begun to offer rent relief to the tenants of the apartment complex. Energy Transfer is offering between 30% to 75% of rent in 2021, depending on the tenant. “Now at the last minute they’re coming with rent relief,”says Magobet. “That’s a day late and a dollar short. They aren’t even answering this situation correctly. We still

don’t have answers.” Energy Transfer says, “the entirety of this work, including restoration, is expected to be completed in June.” Residents of Glen Riddle Station are skeptical that it will be completed so soon. Ownership of Glen Riddle Station told Grid that construction would end in July. on may 26 “there was a break in the water line within the condemned Sunoco pipeline work zone at Glen Riddle Station Apartments,” says Iacobucci. After this water break, apartment ownership asked that the water remain off until tested for contamination, but according to Iacobucci, “a Sunoco representative then entered into our building without our authorization and turned the potentially contaminated water on.” Pennsylvania State Police were called. On May 27 hundreds of people remained without water to shower, cook or clean. Glen Riddle Station demanded that Sunoco put residents in a hotel or similar

accommodations until the issue was resolved. Energy Transfer responded by dropping off “two porta potties and several bottles of water,” according to Iacobucci. Lisa Coleman, a spokesperson with Energy Transfer denied that Energy Transfer hit a water line, saying, “The cause of the break on their line is under investigation.” The pipeline saga is far from over, and Glen Riddle Station is just one of many communities affected by pipeline construction. After the completion of this portion of the Mariner East 2, there is still much more construction to be done throughout the commonwealth in the name of natural gas infrastructure. At the time of publication, the safety of the water at Glen Riddle Station remains in question as a third party continues to test its purity. The apartment ownership remains in litigation with Middletown Township and Sunoco in a case to force “Middletown Township to share correspondence between township staff members, elected officials and Sunoco, dating back to January 1, 2019.”

Glen Riddle Station residents say the pipeline construction noise has made it hard for them to sleep, and they are worried about their air quality.

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Philly’s restaurant community rallies to support a garden bed business by two industry veterans story by brion shreffler

From left: Jhonny Rincon and Cameron Rothwell of VENADO, with their client, Chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon.

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nosy pitbull luxuriates in the scent of sawdust a moment before trotting away from a pair of yawning basement double doors in South Philly. A few moments later, two curious children step into the frame to replace the dog on sidewalk level. The kids stare into the well of the shadow down below, trying to process the figures dressed in dual-cartridge respirators. Jhonny Rincon pauses long enough to register their presence before the table saw whirs anew. “Hey there,” says his partner, Cameron Rothwell. Even during pandemic times, the respirators have a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max feel. Rothwell stoops over, applying linseed oil to the outside of yet another garden box, while Rincon busily cranks out more boxes from their makeshift workshop. Together, she and Rincon launched VENADO, a garden bed and furniture company in 2020, after both lost their jobs in the hospitality industry early on in the pandemic. “You see the kids and dogs before the adults,” Rothwell says of the ongoing interest from passersby. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I was wondering what you were doing down there.’ And the next thing you know, your neighbors are your newest customers.” Of course, passing neighbors don’t have to wonder too much after being drawn in. The façade of Rincon and Rothwell’s home has the pronounced décor of two deeply stained Douglas fir window boxes that complement a tree box they installed on the sidewalk. In addition to pine, they use Douglas fir as a suitable and less expensive stand-in for cedar, which they also use if a customer can meet the price. While Rincon handles most of the woodwork, Rothwell covers order inquiries in between applying finish and assisting in the woodshop. Chef Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, who runs Kalaya Thai Kitchen and Kalaya Thai Market in South Philly, came across Rincon and Rothwell’s work while passing Wood Street Pizza on North 12th between Vine and Callowhill. “I saw [their garden boxes] in front of Wood Street and they’re so beautiful, so I asked who made them,” Suntaranon says. Dean Kitagawa, the owner of Wood Street, then introduced Suntaranon to Rincon. Four garden planters that Suntaranon bought last spring now accompany newly ARTWO RK COURTESY O F VENA DO

purchased tree boxes outside her restaurant. She also recently placed several large planters outside her South Philly residence. “My dream for a long time has been to have beautiful planters in front of my house, but I couldn’t find the right ones,” Suntaranon says. Now Suntaranon, who has been putting her South Philly sidewalk gardening on display for nine years, has an even better platform for her hydrangeas and assorted perennials. “This is a tough time and people are finding that hidden talent that they can use during this crisis for a business opportunity, and I love to support them,” Suntaranon says. Rincon is now the head chef at Wood Street. When he started working there in late summer 2020, he was also working in a restaurant in Ardmore that he was commuting to by bicycle from South Philly, after losing his job as sous chef at South Philly Barbacoa. Similarly, Rothwell lost her job at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel after working as a server for years at places such as Will BYOB. Once Rincon was stuck at home burning through savings he had put away for a planned restaurant of his own—one serving his native Mexico’s cuisine that he planned to name VENADO—Rothwell remembers Rincon bringing up garden boxes. He had made some for South Philly Barbacoa while working there. “I remember him saying, ‘I wonder if anybody else would want one,’ ” Rothwell says. Soon they had an Instagram and Facebook page for their “baby VENADO,” as Rincon refers to it. The name refers to the deer that his grandfather would hunt in the mountains of Oaxaca before turning them into big plates of venison mole. They were quickly hit up by Chef Ari Miller, of Musi BYOB, and scores of other chef friends and acquaintances showing the support and love that makes the Philly restaurant community so special. Miller made the first purchase with VENADO—planters for his home—back in March 2020 before buying from them again this spring for his restaurant. Miller was especially attracted by the mobility of VENADO’s wheeled planters. “We wanted to get moveable planters to demarcate a little bit of an outdoor dining space. It was perfect. Exactly what we were looking for, and it was Jhonny and Cameron,” Miller says.

Rincon and Rothwell work in their basement studio in South Philadelphia.

“Being made by our colleagues who are hustling after losing their jobs makes it just super meaningful to keep it in the family in that way,” Miller adds. Friends such as Chef Joel Mazigian (now with Milkhouse Creamery and formerly of Standard Tap) added to the early support. Mazigian is one of several chefs who ordered custom wooden prep tables for their home kitchens. Rincon is currently finishing a set of bookshelves for one client after doing a series of garden beds that included a table top attachment to hold drinks for a neighbor’s rooftop garden. He recently added coffee tables to his repertoire and says he and Rothwell are designing outdoor furniture for their own backyard. They hope to soon be selling whatever they come up with through VENADO. Not bad for a team that had limited carpentry skills when they started out. The start of lockdown carried one major silver lining for their nascent business. “Timing-wise, it was spring and people were stuck at home,” Rothwell says. “They can’t go anywhere but their back patios, and people want to pretty-up their house.” That silver lining and big purchases from the Passyunk Square Civic Association and local gardening stores helped them jump

out of the blocks last spring, along with the support from hospitality industry colleagues. They say orders have been high this spring. Learning on the fly became easier once Kitagawa made some substantial tool donations, including a hefty table saw that sped up their work. And after months of Rincon using a pet cargo carrier attached to his bike to haul lumber back from Lowe’s and Home Depot, the couple was finally able to buy an SUV last fall. Rincon fills orders on Mondays and Tuesdays (his days off from the restaurant) as well as before shifts at Wood Street. He is working on more projects for Wood Street, including doing tables for whenever they return to indoor dining. Kitagawa has known Rincon for 20 years after the two met while working at the original Friday Saturday Sunday. While he says he’s thrilled to have finally been able to land Rincon as his chef, he’s also happy that Rincon has the flexibility he needs to build his carpentry business. “I encourage everyone to do something long term outside of the restaurant business,” Kitagawa says. “I’d love to see him keep his feet in it with us and still be able to be creative and do something that he loves to do.” J ULY 20 21 G R I DP HILLY.COM 31

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Sweet Mabel Store and Studio

Kimberton Whole Foods

Books & Stuff

The store offers art & craft from local and national artists, First Friday art openings and free gift wrap. The studio hosts parties, workshops, camp and open studio using repurposed goods.

A family-owned and operated natural grocery store with six locations in Southeastern PA, selling local, organic and sustainably-grown food for over thirty years.

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Multicultural, Afrocentric books, gifts, and surprise packages for all! Founded in 2014, and recently online only at and





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We also welcome donations in any amount. More info can be found at We appreciate your continued support!



Mollie Simon, MES ‘19 Communications Coordinator, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

Cultivating a career in climate communications Virtual Café Join the MES team from 12-1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of

“Communications work is a little bit like translating research and making it exciting for the public,” says Mollie Simon (Master of Environmental Studies ’19). As Communications Coordinator for the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy, she often needs to tackle dense research papers and citations to understand how best to break down complex information into digestible content for social media, newsletters, and publicity.

every month for an online chat about your interests and goals. Log in with us. @Penn_MES_MSAG

Mollie’s passion for environmental outreach brought her to Penn’s Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program, where she was able to support her professional goals with broad-ranging coursework and exposure to pressing issues in the field. “My coursework prepared me insofar as I am knowledgeable and understand the research that we’re bringing into the Center, so I don’t need to play a lot of catch-up,” she says. “I’m familiar with a lot of policy topics just from being immersed in these ideas through the MES program.” “I’m passionate about energy and climate change, so it’s really cool to work where I get to do both and utilize the communications skill sets that I have,” adds Mollie. “I feel grateful that I can work on something I feel connected to.” To learn more about Mollie’s pathway to a career in climate communications, visit: