Greening the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia Parks & Rec’s Fight for Sustainability

CompostParks & Rec’s Jen Brown presents to the after school program at Bridesburg Recreation Center. The children learned about our rec center food waste compost program. /Submitted Image

PHILADELPHIA, PAPhiladelphia Parks & Recreation (Parks & Rec), the guardian of the city’s 10,000 acres of precious public land and waterways, is taking a major leap towards greener management of its parks and facilities. The department is weaving sustainability into its activities, from litter reduction and organic waste diversion to food waste minimization, and making considerable progress in transforming Philadelphia into a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable city.

Achieving Cleaner Parks: Tracing Litter and Dumping Hotspots

Two dedicated staff members have joined forces to trace and audit litter and refuse dumping sites across Philadelphia. They have recognized 80 hotspots prone to dumping and are working to develop a comprehensive plan to curb this issue. The strategic plan includes the placement of barriers, cameras, and signage to dissuade illegal dumping. Plus, Parks & Rec is joining hands with local organizations to counteract litter problems and put anti-dumping measures into place.

Cultivating Sustainable Spaces: Building Skills for Sustainable Land Care

To enhance the sustainability of public spaces, Parks & Rec is investing in skills development for its personnel. In 2023, the Sustainable Land Care Training program trained 140 staff members in landscape management and safety practices, equipping them with practical skills that contribute to the sustainability of parks and recreation centers.

Breathing Life into Waste: The Magic of Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center

A significant sustainability stride of Parks & Rec is the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center (ORC), which has been transforming organic waste into valuable materials for over four decades. The ORC accepts leaves, grass clippings, and herbivore manure among other organic substances, turning these into woodchips, compost, and mulch. In just 2023, they recycled an astonishing 4,449 tons of organic material.

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Feeding the City, Not Landfills: Reducing and Donating Food Waste

In its fight against food waste, Parks & Rec has formed a partnership with the MEANS Database to distribute unclaimed meals from their programs to those in need. The department saved 12,191 pounds of food from waste in 2023. Furthermore, Bennett Compost provides a hand by composting food that cannot be donated, thereby further lowering food waste.

Green Events: Sustainability Efforts Extend to Public Gatherings

Even large events are not exempt from Parks & Rec’s sustainability mandate. Following events such as the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run, the department recycles, donates, and composts the waste. More than 25,000 pounds of waste were saved from landfills in 2023 alone.

Why Philadelphia’s Green Endeavors Matter

The sustainability drive of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation holds monumental importance for the city’s environment and its people. Here are the reasons why:

Preserving the Environment: A Gift to Future Generations

Through its efforts in reducing litter, diverting organic waste, and curbing food waste, Parks & Rec is significantly contributing to the preservation of the environment. These actions help to keep public spaces clean and attractive, ensuring that parks and recreational centers can be enjoyed by all Philadelphians.

Enhancing Community Health: Boosting Well-being with Sustainable Practices

Efficient waste management and sustainable practices positively affect community health. By minimizing litter and trash dumping, Parks & Rec is fostering a safer and healthier environment. Moreover, by reducing food waste and donating leftover meals, the department is addressing food insecurity, thus lending a hand to the city’s vulnerable populations.

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Leading by Example: The Power of a Sustainable Model

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation is a shining example of a city department embracing sustainability. Through successful waste reduction and sustainability promotion, Parks & Rec shows the value of environmental stewardship and inspires others to follow suit.

Engaging the Community: Sustainability as a Collective Responsibility

Partnerships with local organizations and community engagement are vital parts of Parks & Rec’s sustainability journey. By inviting residents to join in creating cleaner, greener public spaces, the department is fostering community ownership and active involvement in environmental preservation.

There’s no doubt that the commitment of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to sustainability is having a profound impact. By confronting litter, organic waste, and food waste, the department is positively affecting the environment and community health, and setting an example for other cities. Through all these efforts, Parks & Rec is ensuring that Philadelphia’s parks and recreation centers remain cherished spaces for all residents to enjoy.

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