May 26, 2010 / 3:30 PM / in 9 years

Philadelphia makes progress toward "greenest" goal

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Less garbage, more bike lanes and warmer, energy-efficient houses are a few of the improvements Philadelphia has made as it aims to be the greenest city in America.

Philadelphia Greenworks, a six-year, city-run program that is celebrating its first anniversary, also plans to cut city government energy consumption by 30 percent, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and to double the number of green jobs.

“When I said that Philadelphia will be the number-one green city in America, I’m sure many felt the goal was too bold,” Mayor Michael Nutter said. “Now, looking back on the first year of Greenworks, I am more confident than ever that we will be successful.”

The city says there is evidence that the public is beginning to embrace environmental programs which are part of the program.

It is halfway toward its goal of diverting 70 percent of solid waste from landfills and the program to bring local food to within 10 minutes of three-quarters of the population is 31 percent complete.

The program, funded by city and federal money and some private grants, measures progress in specific initiatives that help to achieve overall goals.

The city has begun converting traffic lights to LEDs, and is designing new lighting for recreation centers. Greenworks also claims success in setting up a green jobs training center.

In downtown Philadelphia, “big belly” solar trash and recycling compactors are a common sight on sidewalks. In residential neighborhoods the recycling rate has almost tripled since last year.

Although the city’s recycling rate lags that in many European cities, it is the highest in the U.S. northeast, said Katherine Gajewski, head of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability.

While other U.S. cities such as Chicago, Denver and Portland, Oregon might also lay claim to the title of greenest city, Philadelphia is a good candidate for its sustainable goals because of its densely packed neighborhoods, its good public transit system, and its walkability, according to Gajewski.

“Energy efficiency is payback,” she said. “We have an engaged citizenry.”

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