(Photo by Will Bleier)
Julie Hancher started the night off with a laugh that also left the crowd thinking.
“Green Philly started when I discovered that my employer was throwing our recycling into the trash,” said the cofounder and editor of the media company. “Kind of like Philly earlier this year.”
The comment, part of Hancher’s opening remarks at the fourth annual SustainPHL awards, hosted by Green Philly, referred to the city sending half of its recyclable materials to a Chester incinerator from October until April, rather than reusing it. It was one of the event’s many challenges to authority.
"We have the knowledge to fight climate change, we have the technology to fight climate change, we lack the courage."
Climate change was the most prominent issue of Thursday night, where 29 nominees — individuals, businesses, nonprofits and government agencies — were honored at the award ceremony at WHYY for their work in sustainability.
“We have the money to fight climate change,” said Rob Fleming, a presenter and director of the Sustainable Design program at Thomas Jefferson University . “We have the knowledge to fight climate change, we have the technology to fight climate change, we lack the courage.”
Many speakers alluded to the greater effects climate change can have on marginalized populations.
“Climate change affects people in developing countries disproportionately to our own city,” said Erin Houston, one of the cofounders of Wearwell, an ethical clothing company which won the Business Innovation award.
“We know that the people that will be the most impacted by climate change are the ones that have the least amount of power in our society,” Fleming said.
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The event also featured a munch-and-learn prior to the awards, where attendees could view sustainability exhibits from organizations like Trash Academy, a project from Mural Arts that brings together young adults and community leaders to address trash issues through art.
Kyla van Buren, a Trash Academy organizer, donned a plastic bag outfit composed of 365 plastic bags, representing the average amount an American uses each year.
Jaime Gauthier, the Democratic nominee for the city’s third district (whose primary victory ended more than 45 years of her opponent’s family hold on the seat) presented three awards.
Through her work in community development, Gauthier said she saw engaged communities do incredible things, like residents who transform public parks from places of despair to safe, green community spaces.
Attendees were given reusable glasses to use throughout the night and dined on compostable dinnerware, making it a zero-waste event, Hancher said. One of the food sponsors, Hungry Harvest, supplied fruits and vegetables the organization uses — produce that would be rejected from grocery stores because of innocuous blemishes.
“It’s been a long haul out in West Philadelphia,” Arnett Woodall, founder of West Phillie Produce, who won the Activist of the Year award said, describing the substance and food crisis facing his neighborhood.
“It’s time that we take notice to everything that we’re talking about in this room today,” Woodall said.
“The fight is still continuing,” he added.
Here are all of your 2019 award recipients:
- Impact Business Leader — Remark Glass
- Social Impact — littlebags.bigimpact
- Business Innovation — Wearwell
- Neighborhood Champion — Kyle Shenandoah
- Sustainability Mentor — Urban Creators
- Sustainable Communities — Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild
- Climate Hero — Joanne Douglas
- Activist of the Year — Arnett Woodall
- #FuturePHL — Ash Richards
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