'The hallmark of activism is unity' — And other scenes from SustainPHL - Generocity Philly


Aug. 7, 2017 1:29 pm

‘The hallmark of activism is unity’ — And other scenes from SustainPHL

The second annual awards event honored 10 people and organizations working in Philly's sustainability community and featured multiple calls to action.

Kirtrina Baxter of Soil Generation receiving the Sustainable Communities award.

(Photo by Dave Rosenblum)

It’s been a tough year for sustainability advocates in the United States, with the election of a president who named a climate change-denier to head the EPA and who pulled the country out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

But you wouldn’t know it at Thursday evening’s SustainPHL, the second annual soirée celebrating Philly’s sustainability community. Organized by Green Philly Company founder Julie Hancher, the event gives out awards to people and organizations working to make the city greener.

In Hancher’s view, Philadelphia has rallied around fighting climate change since Trump’s June announcement about the Paris Accord.

“Businesses and cities (especially Philadelphia!) were the ones who declared we’re leading the way against climate change and keeping Paris standards,” she wrote in an email. “And individuals are trying to figure out how to solve climate change — over 1,600 residents have signed up for solar energy through Solarize Philly, the first citywide solar initiative” which is affiliated with Climate Hero nominee Philadelphia Energy Authority.

“SustainPHL celebrates these individuals and organizations to encourage more people to get involved — and they do,” she said. “Nominee Not In Philly’s website broke for a few days after news of their nomination due to people wanting to get involved and sign up for their cleanup initiatives.”

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Speaking of rallying cries: At the event, Judy Wicks, founder of locavore restaurant White Dog Café and philanthropic group Circle of Aunts and Uncles, spoke about her activism alongside the Sioux Tribe at Standing Rock and warned against allowing the same metaphorical “black snake” of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline to come to Pennsylvania.

Sustainable Business Network Policy and Advocacy Manager Saleem Chapman gave a rousing speech (again) about the need for action in the face of adversity.

“The hallmark of activism is unity,” he said. “We must remember that our social fabric is too interwoven for singular activism, and that selectiveness in the causes that we show up for merely promotes the same divisiveness we seek to over come.”

Soil Generation co-organizer Kirtrina Baxter (who’s also one of our listed 12 people of color leading the social impact charge in Philadelphia) spoke while accepting the group’s award for Sustainable Communities about the need to understand that those who are most impacted by environmental issues “should be the folks who are leading the way” in fighting them — but that “communities of color need support” to do their work.

And as with last year, when SustainPHL offered Wicks the Sustainable Pioneer Award, the event had a surprise award up its sleeve. This time, it was the Green Legacy Award, named in honor of a sustainability pioneer who died in the past year: UC Green Executive Director Winnie Harris, who was killed in her West Philadelphia home in February. The award was accepted by her daughter, Neche Harris.


Here are all of your 2017 award recipients:

  • #FuturePHL — Greenworks Philadelphia, Office of Sustainability
  • Impact Business Leader — Mariposa Co-op
  • Business Innovation — OxiCool
  • Social Impact — Grow Philly
  • Neighborhood Champion — Naida Burgos of Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha
  • Sustainability Mentor — Robert Fleming of Philadelphia University’s Sustainable Design Program
  • Sustainable Communities — Soil Generation
  • Climate Hero — Joan Blaustein of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Activist of the Year — Russell Zerbo of the Clean Air Council
  • Green Legacy — Winnie Harris of UC Green

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