Sustainable 19125 is greening a whole ZIP code — one block at a time.
Led by the New Kensington Community Development Corporation and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Sustainable 19125 has pledged to turn Fishtown, Port Richmond and East Kensington — all in ZIP code 19125 — into the greenest, most sustainable area in the city.
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“The idea goes beyond ‘green.’ It’s about building a strong, healthy community,” explains Kevin Musselman, a 26-year-old Kensington resident and NKCDC spokesperson. “If we encourage a family to practice smart energy habits, [it also] helps the environment, and allows them to sustain their finances. It’s about educating and empowering.”
To that end, Sustainable 19125 used grant money from the William Penn Foundation to create the Green Blocks program: Over 50 volunteers, or “green guides,” introduce eco-conscious thinking to their designated block.
Green guide Loretta Wallace, 57, is in charge of the 2300 block of Memphis Street, where she’s lived for 10 years, but is still considered a newbie.
“In Fishtown, if your family hasn’t been here for three or four generations, you’re the new person forever,” Wallace laughs.
But she has an edge over other green guides also knocking on neighbors’ doors with kits full of compact fluorescent light bulbs and reusable shopping bags. When Wallace moved to Memphis Street she started cleaning it up, and her neighbors took notice. “I went to the first Earth Day, in 1970 in Fairmount Park,” she says. “From then on I’ve been trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, and that included keeping my block clean. And I think my neighbors respect that.”
And although Wallace admits that not all green guides are having as much luck engaging the community as she is, she’s confident their efforts count. “It doesn’t matter if you get every single person involved. Just get one person to make one change — that’s progress,” she says.