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Green Up Your Neighborhood

Because a greener city is a healthier, happier and prettier city

The City of Philadelphia has spent the last several years working to make Philly a more eco-conscious town, in particular through Mayor Michael Nutter’s Greenworks initiative. But it’s not up to City Hall alone. Below, some ideas to make our homes, neighborhoods and city a little greener.

Have more tips? Let us know!

In Your Own Yard

  • Plant a free yard tree. TreePhilly, the Parks & Recreation-led effort to broaden our urban forest, gives away free yard trees twice a year, in the Fall and Spring. You can sign up for one here, choosing a variety and pickup location. All trees are small enough to fit in a small car—they come in 5 gallon buckets—and come with planting instructions. Sign up for TreePhilly’s newsletter here to get more information about the next yard tree giveaway. Read more about tree planting in Philly.
  • Buy your own tree, plant it whenever you want. The Arbor Day Foundation has this guide for selecting the right tree for your yard, depending on its size, sun and watering requirements.  Of course, you can buy any and all types of plants to make things greener.  If you go for small trees or shrubs, PHS has a training on how to properly care for them.
  • Get a free rain barrel. Sign up for RainCheck, at the Philadelphia Water Department, to learn the different ways you can divert stormwater before it hits the sewers—and prettify your yard at the same time. PWD will install a free rain barrel in your yard just for attending a one-hour workshop. For $100, the department will give you a wooden downspout planter—filled with plants. And it will offset up to $2,000 the cost of ripping up your concrete patio and replacing it with a water permeable material. To attend a workshop, register online here. For more information, contact PHS Information Services, or check out their website for more information.
  • Get a free recycling bin. Click here for details on the closest pick-up spot—but make sure to call ahead first to check on availability. While you’re at it, sign up for Recycling Rewards and get a bunch of cool stuff for free—just for recycling!
  • Recycle properly. Here is a list of what you can—and cannot—put out on the curb for recycling. (Hint: Plastic shopping bags do NOT go in your blue bin. Instead, take them to a grocery store for reuse.) The site also has ideas for recycling things like styrofoam that the Streets Department can’t recycle.  The Green Philly Blog has more tips on hard-to-recycle items.
  • Put your trash out correctly. Put lids on bins, put your trash out on the right day at the right time, and know the resources available for “weird” trash. There’s even a Tire Roundup Program for used tires!
  • Get free compost and mulch from the Fairmount Park Organic Recycling Center. You can get up to 30 gallons free (There’s a slight charge if you need more).
  • Properly dispose of your leaves, lawn clippings, and other organic materials (see the full list here). You can drop them off at the Recycling Center, or The Dirt Factory in University City—or hook up with a composting service, like Bennett Compost, that will pick up your waste from your home.
  • Compost your food wasteBennett Compost, for example, offers weekly organics pickup for only $15/month, as does Circle Compost. There’s also Philly Compost, which serves the Fishtown area.

In Your Neighborhood

  • Request a free street tree. This couldn’t be easier: Go to TreePhilly’s website and fill out an online form requesting the city plant a tree on your sidewalk. Parks&Rec will send out a contractor to inspect your property, and leave you a “Planting Permission Form” to mail in. (This ensures only property owners are making the request.) In spring or fall, a private contractor will jackhammer your sidewalk; plant a tree; leave you care instructions; and come back for a year to water it.
  • Start a community garden.  PHS offers trainings on how to do it.  There might already be a community garden in your neighborhood that you can become a part of; check this map to see where the nearest garden is.
  • Tell your neighbors about TreePhilly. Print out the request form and drop it off in their mail slots.
  • Get a free trash can for your block. Live on a block with a lot of foot traffic, corner stores, or other causes of litter? A public trash can could be the solution. Become a block captain and get a can for free!
  • Hold a tree planting day—to coincide with the giveaways—with volunteers who will plant trees for residents who want one, but aren’t able (or don’t want) to do the work.  PHS has trainings, an online guide, and even online videos to help get you up to speed.
  • Hold a neighborhood cleanup. First read Keep Philadelphia Beautiful’s detailed guide for hosting a clean up day on your block. Then request free supplies from City Hall.
  • Join a Civic Association. Some neighborhoods, like University City and Newbold, have robust greening groups that you can join. Others, not so much. Track down your local Civic Association and ask to form a neighborhood greening committee.
  • Get a mural in your neighborhood. Have a big wall that needs some love? Apply to have a mural painted by the Mural Arts Program. But don’t expect it to be easy: It is competitive and expensive, so start the fundraising early.
  • Sponsor your own Neat Streets campaign.  Neat Streets is a program out of the UK that uses creative  methods to combat litter. Learn how to create your own program in your neighborhood.
  • Adopt a street or area in Philadelphia.  Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful will help recognize your volunteer efforts to keep a street or area clean by posting signs in recognition of you or your group.  You can even adopt a school zone to help improve the quality and appearance of your local school.

In Your City

  • Become a volunteer Tree Tender to help plant yard trees all over the city.
  • Call 311 to report a tree that needs care, illegal dumping, graffiti, vacant lots, potholes, and more. You can also report problems online or via email or via the 311 mobile app (on iTunes and Google Play).
  • Shop local. Buy summer produce at a local farmers market, urban farm Greensgrow, or join one of the city’s many CSAs, summer or winter.
  • Shop sustainable. Find local companies that have signed on to an environmentally-conscious business model at the Sustainable Business Network. Download Milkcrate, an app that helps you find eco-friendly businesses around town. (Read more about Milkcrate.)

Special thanks to Philadelphia Horticultural Society and Keep Philadelphia Beautiful for help developing this guide.

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