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18 simple ways to live green in Philly

Tips to make your home, neighborhood, and city more sustainable

Fun fact: The original Earth Day has its roots in Philadelphia. Way back in 1970, a group of well-meaning students at the University of Pennsylvania came up with the grand idea of devoting an entire week to the environmental cause.

But you don’t need to wait until Earth Day to make a difference. Here in Philly, there are plenty of ways, big and small, that you can live greener on a daily basis and help make this city even better and cleaner for years to come.

Green Your home

1. Grab a free tree for your yard. Each fall and spring season the TreePhilly program hosts events where you can pick up a free tree to plant in your yard. It started back in 2012 as a way to make sure that every Philly neighborhood has at least 30 percent tree canopy coverage.

2. Manage stormwater on your property. The city offers Rain Check, a residential stormwater management program that aims to help homeowners beautify their homes. All of you have to do is attend a workshop, then you can get a free rain water barrel or buy one of those clever downspout planter boxes (plants included!).

3. Keep a lid on it. The aftermath of trash day is, more often than not, a mess. Keep your debris off the sidewalk by simply putting a lid on your trash can.

4. Pick up a recycling bin. You know the deal: Reduce, reuse, recycle. You can pick up a free recycling bin from the city at these locations shown on the map. And here’s a helpful list of what you can and can’t recycle.

5. Check for lead paint. Philly is an old city that has the highest lead-exposure rates in the region. If you rent a property that was built before 1978, make sure your landlord can show proof that the unit is lead-safe. If you’re about to buy, bring in a lead paint testing company as part of the house inspection. Also take a moment to check out Curbed’s story on the dangers of lead paint.

6. Purify with plants. No need to build a green wall, though that would be awesome. A decades-old study conducted by NASA found that certain plants like a snake plant or the monstera plant can remove carcinogens from the air in your home. NASA’s rule of thumb is to have one air-purifying plant for every 100 square feet of space. Luckily, Philly has you covered. There’s a wealth of local plant stores all across the city that you can check out.

Snake plants, monstera plants, and bamboo are known to help purify air in your home.
Photo by Heidi’s Bridge

7. Install a roof garden. Instead of a roof deck, consider a roof garden for your home to help with stormwater management. It requires some complicated work, but the Philadelphia Water Department has a helpful design guide to get started.

Green Your Neighborhood

8. Plant a tree. Okay, so you don’t have a yard to plant your own tree. Then find out if there are any nearby volunteer opportunities to help plant trees in your neck of the woods. If you can’t help physically plant a tree, yourself, then you can always donate to get more trees planted in Center City

9. Sweep your street. Grab a broom and do it yourself or organize a cleanup with your neighbors to beautify your street. If you live in one of the neighborhoods that’s currently seeing a street sweeping pilot program, make sure to move your car so it’s easier for workers to clean.

10. Become a block captain. Want to chase that feeling of sprucing up your street? Contact the Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee (PMBC) and see if you have what it takes to become a block captain. These leaders are responsible for organizing cleanups and other beautification activities on their block.

11. Clean up your neighborhood park. Every year the Parks and Rec department and Fairmount Park Conservancy hosts Love Your Park, a week-long event that includes a long list of opportunities to clean up Philly’s parks. This year, it takes place between May 11 to 19. Check the site to see if your neighborhood park could use a hand.

The Spring Gardens started out as an abandoned lot. Today, some 180 families grow their own food here.
R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

12. Curb your dog. Furry friends are wonderful, but their waste? Not so much. Do you part by picking up your pup’s poo. Otherwise, rain water could wash it directly into the city’s storm drains or into local waterways.

13. Start a community garden. Fight blight by turning that vacant lot in your ‘hood into a community garden. The Philadelphia Horticultural Society has information on how to start community gardens or find one close to you.

14. Join your neighborhood green committee. Find out if your neighborhood association or registered community association has a green or beautification committee that you can join. No dice? Be the change and start one!

Green Your City

15. Explore Philly by bike. Ditch four wheels for two and explore the city by bike (or by foot!). If you’re in need of some wheels, buy an Indego pass and find a bike near you. First time city cyclist? The GoPhillyGo app, spearheaded by the Clean Air Council, offers the best bike and pedestrian routes to take to various sites around the city.

16. Shop local. If you buy food from your local farmers market, it helps local farmers stay in business and cut their costs and amount of pollution they create. Here’s a helpful map you can use to find your nearest market.

17. Speak up. Have you come across an illegal dumping spot in the city? Want to report an air quality issue? Calling the city at 3-1-1 or download the app here to file a digital report. You can then track the status of your report here.

18. Contact your local legislators—and vote! Concerned? Got a question? Give your local leaders a call and make your voice heard.

Care to share more advice for sustainable living? Hit up the comments section. We’d love to hear them!

Fairmount Park

Reservoir Drive, , PA 19119 (215) 683-3600 Visit Website


, , PA 19130

Old City

, , PA
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