Cleaning: It’s the one spring trend that never goes out of fashion. For its part, the city makes a valiant effort in cleaning and greening, offering free trees through Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s TreePhilly program, as well as providing a system of street-cleaning block captains managed by the Philadelphia Streets Department’s Philadelphia More Beautiful Committee. But the heart of a neighborhood’s clean-and-green efforts is best illustrated by the characters who make up a community. Here, five Newbold neighbors pitching in to make their turf just a little more sightly and sustainable.
Lindsay Duggan (pictured above in her 17th and Reed streets personal garden)
Lindsay Duggan is a believer in education. So much so, that she teaches a free, donation-operated class in West Philadelphia about herbalism, how to contain a garden and, in short, Food 101.
“Some kids today, they don’t even know how a tomato grows,” she groaned.
Her goal, since she moved to the neighborhood four years ago, has been to purchase and green up a city-owned vacant lot behind her house to relocate her teaching space — an effort that’s proven unfruitful.
“We get a run-around [from the city],” she said. “We’re trying to convince them to sell it to us at a reduced rate, because I can’t afford market value. When we first looked at the property, it was listed at $2,000; now they’re trying to sell it at $30,000.”
Jesse Leonard, after a year on Newbold Neighbors Association’s Public Safety Committee, made a switcheroo in February to head of the Clean and Green Committee, finding cleaning and greening a more tangible issue to center in the crosshairs. Target No. 1: Public green space — even with all of the bureaucratic hoop-jumping that comes with it in a city that’s cash-strapped.
“I’ve found through this short process, working with Councilman Johnson’s office to find green space in the area, that the city needs more money,” Leonard said. “Though our community members have said repeatedly that we want public green space, that we’re willing to care for it and maintain it, they continue to sell vacant lots that we identify [as good options].”
Though not the sexiest business in town, it’s far from tedious for Tim Bennett. Bennett launched Bennett’s Composting on a whim, bored with his office job and ready for a change. So, with a small wad of cash in hand — $100, to be specific — he did.
“I wanted to compost myself, and I realized I didn’t have any good options,” he said. “Part of the thinking behind it was to make it simple for people to make the right choices and do the right environmental thing. People make you jump through so many hoops to do it.”
Bennett’s Composting simplifies the act of composting by allowing curbside collection, where it’s then shipped off to six area farms. Customers separate their compost materials and leave them in a bucket for pickup on Thursday nights, for those in Newbold. All for $15 per month.
Jackie Nidoh was welcomed to Philadelphia with a burger wrapper thrown past her head.
“He was so apologetic for having almost hit me, but showed no regard for throwing trash,” Nidoh said.
Having moved from Baltimore in November, Nidoh was inspired to take a hard-hitting leap into community organizations just after her move-in. She circles the community-meeting circuit as an advocate for clean-and-green changes, and makes constant phone calls to alert city officials and the Philadelphia Streets Department to what she considers to be a disastrous state of streets after trash pickups. To the latter point, she reports that she never gets a solution.
“Filthadelphia,” Kerrigan laughed, standing in a vacant lot. “Seriously, though. The litter, the trash, obviously you want to see more green space.”
These were factors that led Kerrigan to join Jesse Leonard as a volunteer for Newbold Neighbors’ Clean and Green Committee this year, in an effort to address Newbold’s ubiquitous litter. With an emphasis on fundraising, Kerrigan believes the committee’s efforts can both tend to trash piles and, per Leonard’s M.O., focus on implementing green space more aggressively. Kerrigan is currently working on fundraising efforts tied around raffles and — rejoice, boozers — beer.
– Text and images by Brandon Baker and Kate McCann