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YEPN: Meet Young Sustainable Professionals in this New Org!
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YEPN: Meet Young Sustainable Professionals in this New Org!

Guest post by Alexandra Speers, Engineering Consultant, Chubb Environmental Risk

Old news to you guys: Philadelphia is a sustainability leader. In the public sphere, we boast leading-edge water management and infrastructure, innovative programs to reduce carbon emissions, and a strong Office of Sustainability working on all aspects of city environmental management. In the private sector, we have numerous environmental consulting firms, remediation firms, engineering firms, and environmental lawyers. The city is full of non-profits, environmental researchers at our universities, the EPA Region 3 headquarters, and myriad other organizations. However, many of the professionals in this diverse industry are not connected to each other.

I launched the Young Environmental Professionals Network (YEPN) last month to connect professionals engaged in the disparate environmental and sustainability industries in Philly. We held our inaugural event, a networking happy hour, on Tuesday, September 27th. Chris Crockett, the Chief Environmental Officer of water-management company Aqua America and formerly Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Environmental Services at the Philadelphia Water Department, was our guest speaker.

Chris began his talk by pointing out that Philadelphia was one of the first cities in the United States to deeply focus on environmental management. Per his presentation, “efforts to protect and preserve the environment have been in place since post-Civil War”. The true effort to manage water resources started after early 1900s industrialization nearly destroyed the local rivers – the Delaware was smelled at City Hall in 1945! Now other major metropolitan areas, such as New York City and Rio de Janeiro, have come to Philadelphia to learn about stormwater management. The country’s largest private water suppliers are headquartered in the region and the Schuylkill River Trail won USA Today’s Reader’s Choice award for Best Urban Trail.

More than excellent water management, Chris stated that Philadelphia has “the largest green infrastructure program in the U.S” and “research and academic institutions with incredible environmental reputations and expertise” such as the Stroud Center and Academy of Natural Sciences. We have an Office of Sustainability newly written into the city’s charter. Following from the proliferation of non-profits, academic institutions, and private industry focused on environmental management, Chris posed the question: Will Philadelphia See the Green Industry and Services Boom to Replace Past Industries?

It depends, Chris said, on the Clean Power Plan, cost of alternative energy, changes in architectural practices, EPA regulatory priorities, effect of climate change, self-driving car adoption, new disruptive technologies, and changes in public perception and demographics affecting public policy. He then took the discussion to a more personal note. He asked us to act locally. He asked us to be involved with local committees and to attend local hearings on zoning laws. He suggested that we volunteer for local environmental efforts such as watershed organizations and township committees. In addition, he asked us to share new ideas and develop ways to demonstrate those new ideas in practice for early adoption by others.

Chris pointed out that innovation often comes at the margins, at the intersection of two fields or industries. As Philadelphia emerges as a national and global leader in environmental sustainability, having a connected network of professionals will be essential. It will bring together like-minded people to collaborate on new projects and foster a self-awareness and collective voice that will help facilitate the rise of our city into the upper echelon of environmental managers.

Last Tuesday night I met all kinds of professionals: consultants, engineers, lawyers, students and more. All are focused on environmental issues in different ways, and I am so excited to continue the discussions we started!

If you would like more information, check out our Facebook and LinkedIn groups or email yepnofphilly@gmail.com. We will have another networking happy hour in October. Please join us!

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Julie Hancher
Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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