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Meet the SustainPHL Nominees: Activist of the Year 2022
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Meet the SustainPHL Nominees: Activist of the Year 2022

This nominee is promoting a sustainability cause and is an activist in his/her/their community by increasing visibility and awareness of sustainability initiatives to new & broader audiences.

In October, Philadelphia’s SustainPHL Awards will highlight and celebrate these community changemakers. Join us to honor them and announce the recipient at the SustainPHL Awards on October 20 at the Academy of Natural Sciences. 

Micah Gold-Markel, Solar States

Gold-Markel is founder of Philly-based Solar States, an on-ramp for inner-city residents looking to find jobs in the solar industry.  Solar States has a dual mission: to install solar and educate the next generation of solar installers by partnering with Philadelphia schools. Since 2008, they have completed over 800 projects for residential and commercial clients, including Swarthmore College and the Community College of Philadelphia. Along the way, Gold-Markel and Solar States have impacted hundreds of students through their curriculum and job placement, and hired a number of these students after program completion. 

Terrill Haigler 

Also known as “Ya Fav Trashman,” Haigler has raised awareness around litter, illegal dumping, and the importance of sanitation workers since his Instagram went viral during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last two years, he has hosted over 85 community clean-ups and picked up just over 400 tons of trash. In 2022 he wrote and published a children’s book, “I’m Cool Too,” to educate kids about environmental justice. 

Haigler, himself a former sanitation worker in Philadelphia, is continually focusing on clean streets. As the pandemic spread, he saw that sanitation workers had little PPE equipment while collecting trash and witnessed rampant illegal dumping throughout the city. He used social media to create awareness and inspire change. Haigler has spoken at the White House and been featured on the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and World News Tonight. With gun violence at an all time high, Terrill is making the connection that a cleaner city is a safer city. He is now running for Philadelphia city council.

The Big Clean Up – Taaj Williams 

Naasir Taaj Williams is chairman of The Big Clean Up, a nonprofit that’s been sweeping through the city’s most underserved neighborhoods, collecting trash and spreading hope. Over the last 3 years, The Big Clean Up has hosted 15 neighborhood clean ups across the city, drawing over a thousand volunteers and filling more than 2500 trash bags. 

The Big Clean Up emerged in the wake of George Floyd’s death in 2020, sparked during a community dialogue among Philly’s Black organizers and artists. At its helm is a board of directors including Williams, twenty “dot connectors” with heavy influence as creatives, entrepreneurs, and activists, and close relationships with the communities they serve. “Each of us…has some type of ties to the most troubled kids in our city and the folks who need the most help. Those underprivileged, disenfranchised neighborhoods,” says Williams, who grew up in the projects of South Philadelphia. “But we’re still here, and we’re not giving up on our city. We’re going to keep on growing. We’re going to keep on pushing, and we’re going to keep on having these ideas that push the positivity as much as possible. Not just the cleanliness, but the clean mindset.” 


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Stephanie Ostroff loves exploring green spaces in and around Philly. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and has been published in National Geographic, Generocity, and Fathom. When she’s not writing, she works as a speech/language therapist at AIM Academy. In her free time, Stephanie enjoys getting lost in the Wissahickon, practicing yoga, and planning travel adventures. View all posts by Stephanie Ostroff

1 thought on “Meet the SustainPHL Nominees: Activist of the Year 2022

  1. Stephanie, For next year’s nominees, I hope you’ll consider The Block Gives Back http://www.theblockgivesback.org . A group of Lincoln HS friends from Tacony , who for the past 8 years have been not only cleaning up Philly’s blocks, but feeding them too ( 52+straight weeks during Covid !! ) with hot homemade dinners and grocery essentials. Plus giving even more back to families and youth with for example their Block to School each August, End of the Year Jawn each December, 4 Blocks in 4 Weeks in the Spring, regular classes in music and woodworking and countless other community engagement events happening each week along with continuing to do Feed the Block. My husband and I have been supporting them since Fall 2019 and couldn’t be more proud of this awesome group of young people who have fulltime jobs and families yet each week are thinking of and doing for of others to show how The Block can help make Philly a cleaner, healthier, more inclusive city for all of its residents. I hope you’ll go on their website to learn more about the great work they’re doing 24/7/365 for Philadelphia. Thank you, Penny Pray

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