Advice

6 Philly Businesses That Put Your Office’s Sustainability Efforts to Shame

As businesses across the world gear up World Cleanup Day on September 15, here’s a look at companies in and around Philadelphia that make sustainability a priority all year long.


iStock | WichienTep

Cities all over the world are gearing up for the UN Environment sponsored World Cleanup Day on September 15, which invites volunteers and partners to clean up litter and waste from beaches, streets, rivers, and forests — basically anywhere. While U.S. companies from Microsoft to the Radisson hotel chain gear up for a full day of helping clean up the planet, these six companies located in and around Philly have been making sustainability a priority all year long.

12th Street Catering

This University City catering company is committed to operating their business sustainably, and their practices go beyond just composting in their on-site facility. The company delivers biodegradable plates made from fallen palm leaves with their corporate orders, cuts down on plastic waste by using compostable trash bags, and sources some of its vegetables, herbs, and wildflowers from their rooftop garden.

“We are wholly committed to operating a green company” owner, Michele Leff told Philly Mag. “We feel concerned about the future of our planet and hope what we do makes a small difference to future generations,”

For Leff, The hardest part about going green was making the commitment to the extra time and money it takes to keep the business sustainable.

“This all comes with additional costs, which we feel are well worth it.  We spend extra to ship our food in baskets, not plastic. And we spend the most on our training and education for our staff so they become personally involved in the mission,” Leff said.

Their mission has paid off, however, as the company has been practicing green catering for over 15 years.

Campbell Soup Co.

With their 2018 corporate responsibility report, Campbell Soup announced their commitment to working towards a sustainable future through their solar panels project. The panels, which went live earlier this year, mark the largest solar project to hit Camden, NJ and generates 20 percent of the company’s electricity demand.

“Campbell’s renewable projects are delivering clean energy to the grid and demonstrating the viability of energy sources like solar,” vice president of Global Engineering for Campbell Soup Jim Prunesti told Philly Mag.

In addition to the solar panels, the company is also removing ozone-depleting refrigerants from its facilities and has plans to cut down on food waste.

And We Evolve

As Philly’s first subscription box service for second hand clothes, And We Evolve has made strides to combat fast fashion, the globe’s second dirtiest industry, according to the Washington Post. Their business plan: cut down on the over 10 million tons of textiles that are clogging our landfills by recirculating clothes that are already in existence and elevating the second hand shopping experience.

“I love that second hand is a way to opt out of fast fashion,” co-owner Liz Funk told Philly Mag. “The reality is, most of us prefer to not consider where our clothes come from because it’s scary”

The “scary” facts, according to Funk, include that it takes a third of a pound of pesticide to grow the cotton that goes into one t-shirt.

“That fact always surprises me,” Funk said. “I think in a very short time, [people are] going to start being very woke about their clothes.”

For now, Funk and her co-owner Alisha Ebling, are focused on growing their business, but they hope to expand to upcycling their donations so that customers can get the most out of second hand pieces.

SEPTA

Electric buses will soon be rolling out on a street near you, thanks to SEPTA’s new five-year sustainability plan, “SEP-TAINABLE 2020.”

The plan includes goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decreasing water consumption by 25 percent, and to reuse waste through station and facility recycling programs.

The highlight of “SEP-TAINABLE 2020” is, however, the addition of 525 hybrid electric buses to their fleet. Their sustainable bus program doesn’t stop there. Twenty-five battery electric buses were introduced into the fleet as well, SEPTA says, and by 2020, electric hybrids will make up 95 percent of the bus fleet. These buses will give SEPTA the largest “green” bus fleet on the East Coast.

“Ultimately, a more sustainable SEPTA supports a more economically prosperous, socially conscious and environmentally sustainable region,” SEPTA’s general manager Jeff Knueppel said in the opening of the report. “Even more can be done to grow the economy and reduce transportation-sector emissions.”

Lobo Mau

This brother and sister owned contemporary sportswear brand hopes to fight the fast fashion industry by producing quality, classically styled clothes with a modern twist that won’t break down after just one trip through the washing machine.

“We’re the answer to fast fashion,” Jordan Haddad, one of the co-owners, told Philly Mag. “We don’t produce needless amounts of clothes.”

In order to keep their business sustainable, Jordan and his fashion designer sister and co-owner, Nicole, use locally sourced textiles and hire seamstresses with as much as 50 years of experience in the industry so that their products will last. They also use sustainable ink in their printing machines.

Their biggest contribution to sustainability? Making clothes to order and using materials that last so that they aren’t contributing to the piles of wasted clothes that end up in landfills each year.

“It’s need based,” Nicole Haddad said. “[Customers] could have [our clothes] for twenty years.”

West Laurel Hill Cemetery and Funeral Home

West Laurel Hill Cemetery’s sustainable burial site, Nature’s Sanctuary, makes it possible to go green in the afterlife. The cemetery, which is the first in the country to receive a Gold SITES Certification for landscape sustainability, seeks to restore the landscape as it transitions from a meadow to a fully formed woodland, according to Green Philly Blog.

The native plant life isn’t the only feature that makes this cemetery sustainable. Nature’s Sanctuary cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by using a team of goats and solar powered lawn mowers, rather than regular mowers to trim the grass and control invasive species, poison ivy, and thorns behind the burial site. They’ve also partnered with Philly beekeeper, the Benevolent Bee, to maintain three bee apiaries on the grounds and have implemented a new water-based cremation system for their pet services that reduces their carbon footprint.

Their commitment to sustainability stretches back to their opening in 2008 when they became the first cemetery in Philadelphia to be certified by the green burial council.

“We have to care for the land,” Nancy Goldenberg, president and CEO of West Laurel Hill Cemetery & Funeral Home told Philly Mag. “We owe it to our families and employees to manage our property and, therefore, their loved ones in a way that’s respectful to the earth.”

Courtney DuChene is an intern at Philadelphia Magazine.