Sustainability in #Philly

Big Question: What is the status of sustainability – and what are some ways it’s being advanced – in Philadelphia?

Time Commitment: 40 minutes

Diving In, Part 1: Cities, Sustainability, and Philly

How do cities advance sustainability? Take a look at the two and a half-minute video below, for an insightful global reminder of how important cities are in advancing global sustainability. If you’re interested, the SDG Academy offers free advanced learning on this topic.

Aromar Revi, Indian Institute for Human Settlements

Getting more local, the Philadelphia Region received an average score in comparison to other US Cities in respect to SDG 13: Climate Action. And, we’re sorry to say, US Cities perform poorly in comparison with other cities around the world. It turns out the Philadelphia region has special incentives to address climate change. As revealed in this interactive report on regional sea level rise from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission,

Along the North Atlantic coast of the United States, sea level is predicted to rise at a higher rate than the global average. This is due to many region-specific geologic and oceanographic processes, but a primary factor is that land in this region is sinking slowly due to subsidence.

How might we do better? Fortunately numerous civil society organizations are advocating for or building a more sustainable Philadelphia. We’ll focus on bike infrastructure, urban farming, and learning more about business and government efforts to get started.

Diving In, Part 2: Bike Infrastructure Access and Activism in Philly

We begin with building from Philadelphia’s existing bike culture, with hopes for adding more sustainable infrastructure throughout the region. Enjoy this 7-minute video.

While the video strikes an optimistic tone, throughout the region, most individuals report they would walk, run, or bike more if they felt safe doing so. But they don’t. Take 8-minutes now to read ‘Dangerous’ bicyclists are change agents, building a healthy and sustainable region. The article builds on the five types of social change that we considered earlier.

Reflection Question: Could you see yourself engaging in one of the five types of social change in the article about regional bicycling? Why or why not?

Diving In, Part 3: #Philly Urban Farming

Food Moxie in Mt. Airy, the North Philly Peace Park and Urban Creators– are three, diversely situated and operated farms among more than 400 Urban Farms in the City. Check out this three-and-a-half minute video created when Urban Creators won a prize for their work.

Now take 5 minutes to read Three maps tell the story of urban farming in Philly right now.

Reflection Question: Think about the SDGs. As a reminder, all of the SDGs are pictured below. How many SDGs are potentially affected positively by sustainable urban farming projects?

This multi-color grid arrays the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs):
GOAL 1: No Poverty
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
GOAL 4: Quality Education
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
GOAL 13: Climate Action
GOAL 14: Life Below Water
GOAL 15: Life on Land
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Diving In, Part 4: Sustainable Philly, Business and Government

The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia is an entity dedicated to research-informed solutions for the Philadelphia region. Their Executive Director Jeff Hornstein, began his recent post, Sustainability and Greening our Region, this way,

“A central theme of the Economy League’s 2019 Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange is change in complex systems. There are few systems more complex than the global climate and the increasingly undeniable impact of humans. Despite paralysis and denial at the federal level, cities like Philadelphia are taking the lead on attempting to mitigate the impact of climate change by focusing on making the city more resilient and less dependent on fossil fuels – while also acknowledging and attempting to ameliorate inequities in the distribution of the benefits of sustainability, such as tree canopies, green spaces, and access to fresh food.”

Take 10 minutes to read the full post from The Economy League, and interact with some of the data visualizations, such as this Building Energy Benchmarking Tool, provided by the City.

Now that you have completed this page and the readings, videos, and activities within it, you should have strengthened your understanding of: 

  • Sustainability challenges in the Philadelphia region
  • Networks and organizations dedicated to bicycle infrastructure advocacy
  • Urban farming in Philadelphia
  • Philadelphia business and government interest in sustainability

For more on Philadelphia’s greening efforts, check out Farming in Philly, Green Philly, or these (now a couple years old) efforts by WHYY to profile the City in terms of its green score, or the City’s 2016 Vision for Sustainable Development.

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Citation for this page: Hartman, E. (2020). Where can I get started with organizations advancing sustainability in Philadelphia? In E. Hartman (Ed.). Interdependence: Global Solidarity and Local Actions. The Community-based Global Learning Collaborative. Retrieved from


Beeler, C. (2015, January 13). Is Philly the greenest city in America? Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission. (2019). Coastal Effects of Climate Change in Southeastern PA. Retrieved from

Economy League. (n.d.). Economy League – 2019 LEADERSHIP EXCHANGE: PHILADELPHIA. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Farming Philly. (n.d.). Urban Farming Ventures in Philadelphia. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Green Philly. (n.d.). Green Cities. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Hartman, E. (2019, September 11). ‘Dangerous’ bicyclists are change agents, building a healthy and sustainable region. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Hornstein, J. (2019, September 16). Economy League – Sustainability and Greening our Region. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

Jaramillo, C. (2020, January 15). Three maps tell the story of urban farming in Philly right now. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

López, A. L., Santamarina, D., & Nowakowski, K. (n.d.). The World’s Top Cities for People and the Planet. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

The City of Philadelphia. (n.d.). Greenworks: A Vision for a Sustainable Philadelphia | Office of Sustainability. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

The City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability. (2019). 2019 Building Energy Benchmarking. Retrieved from!/

The SDG Academy. (n.d.). SDG Academy Library. Retrieved May 10, 2020, from

United Nations Development Programme. (n.d.). Goal 13: Climate action. Retrieved May 14, 2020, from

United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. (2019). The 2019 US Cities Sustainable Development Report. Retrieved from

Videos and pieced cited within the videos:

BuzzFeedVideo. (2018, July 12). How These Urban Farmers Are Combating Food Insecurity In Philly // Presented by BuzzFeed & Hyundai [Video file]. Retrieved from

iihschannel. (2016, September 16). Sustainable Cities MOOC | Promo 1 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Streetfilms. (2015, May 11). The Philadelphia Bike Story [Video file]. Retrieved from