Panel discusses Phila. environmental practices

By Amanda Carson
December 4, 2008

Through collaborative efforts, integration of resources and sharing ideas, Philadelphia and suburbs can ensure its goal of increasing its surrounding environment’s sustainability. Education of the city’s youth and teaching smart environmental practices within school curriculums, however, are vital.

These were the main views for “Inside Philadelphia’s Greenest Companies: Sustainability Strategies & ‘Green Collar’ Careers,” a Philadelphia University hosted panel discussion.

The panel discussion was a public event held at Philadelphia University’s Kanbar Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Five panelists were featured and included Suzanne Biemiller, from the Managing Director’s Office for the City of Philadelphia; Marion Coker, from South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority; Kevin Gallagher, government liaison for the Department of Environmental Protection; Christine Knapp, director of Outreach, Citizens for the Future of Pennsylvania and The Next Great City Initiative; and Josh Nims, operations manager of Schuylkill River Development Corporation.

Each panelist discussed how their agencies are specifically responding to environmental challenges that face Philadelphia. They also talked about a growing interest in the “green collar” job market.

“Change is coming,” Gallagher said. Biemiller, who works for the sustainability office of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, stressed that cities need to set environmental goals. “Actions we take today can help down the road,” Biemiller said.

Tom Schrand, co-moderator of the event and chair of bachelor of science program in environmental sustainability for Philadelphia University, provided a brief background on Philadelphia University’s newly implemented environmental science major.

Schrand said the program offers courses to students, such as in green design and engineering, so students can apply smart environment practices to their professional career.

The panel discussion was later opened to the audience. Audience members were very engaged and displayed an interest in Philadelphia’s sustainability. Audience members asked if the economy will affect Philadelphia’s sustainability and how students can get involved. Panelists answered, by discussing how agencies are using cost effective strategies and noting that networking and volunteering can provide involvement for students.

College campuses, specifically within the Philadelphia area, can help work towards optimal sustainability, according to the panelists. Ned Rauch-Mannino, co-moderator of the event and policy and program analyst for Urban Industry Initiative, discussed some environmental initiatives that Cabrini College could make and said, “a campus is a small city.”

Mannino said that as a small suburban campus, Cabrini should “first and foremost reach out to organizations.” He stressed the necessity to network with different organizations. Mannino said that offering question-and-answer forums on campus could get students involved. Recycling 100 percent was also a suggestion made for Cabrini.

According to Mannino, “once you want it,” sustainability can be achieved.

Attendees left the discussion more informed on environmental sustainable practices. Students, after being encouraged to take campus initiatives, realized that they would eventually be in charge of protecting the environment.

“[We are] trying to prep for a green future for Philadelphia, nation and world,” Schrand said.

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Amanda Carson

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