Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ikea bags plastic bags, reps reusable bags… and thereby becomes an official Illadelph crush

Ikea facadeFor some of us here, it began at a very young age. Trips to Ikea's first U.S. store were routine growing up. We’d dive in the plastic balls, eat a few hot dogs, have the occasional meatball-eating contest, and then look forward to getting home so we could assemble the furniture purchases of the day.

For the rest, the Ikea initiation arrived in college.

And even now, years removed from all that, we still heart Ikea for everything from its brilliantly inexpensive essentials (read wooden hangers - 8 for $3, remarkably hard-to-break wine glasses - 6 for $5, a three-piece stainless steel cookware set for $10, etc.) to more substantial items like an eminently usable laptop table, mattress-saving mattress pads and deck deck outfittings.

Our affection for their products (and their proximity to John’s) notwithstanding, it was nice to be reminded — after they dropped the ball with their so-called first “urban store,” which opened in Philadelphia in 2004 and had zero positive urban design components to it — why we really want to boff Ikea.

ikea plastic bagAnd that reminder came on Tuesday when Ikea announced it would no longer be offering plastic shopping bags for free to its customers.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. consumes over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps each year. Each year, Americans throw away some 100 billion polyethylene plastic bags, and less than one percent of them are recycled. Single-use bags made of high-density polyethylene are the main culprit. Once brought into existence to tote purchases, they will accumulate and persist on our planet for up to 1000 years.

IKEA U.S. is taking a stand. With the goal of reducing plastic bag litter that is strangling our planet, IKEA will no longer be offering customers free plastic bags. Beginning March 15, every plastic bag at every IKEA U.S. store across the nation will cost five cents. All proceeds* from this 'program year' bag campaign will go to American Forests, the nation's oldest non-profit citizens conservation organization, to plant trees to restore forests and offset CO2 emissions.

Also, to help alter customer behavior and endorse environmentally responsible habits, IKEA will be selling its iconic reusable 'Big Blue Bag' for 59 cents, a cost that has been reduced from 99 cents.
Ikea big blue reusable bagHot damn, Ikea — you had at us at “hello.”

Honestly, we think Philadelphia should make like Ireland and tax the shit out of plastic bags. Or — what the hell — let our ban-happy City Council at ‘em and just ban the bastards outright. (Seriously, both should, at the very least, be discussed as possibilities to determine if and how much the city has to benefit from a plastic bag tax or ban. An amount, we would assert, is a lot.)

Moreover, reusable bags are undeniably sexy.
So, what is the answer, paper or plastic? NEITHER! Look into purchasing reusable bags or reusing your paper or plastic bags at the store. Reusing a bag meant for just one use has a big impact. […]
In New York City alone, one less grocery bag per person per year would reduce waste by five million pounds and save $250,000 in disposal costs. [EPA]
And it’s high time Philadelphia had one of its very own.

Center City District, Reading Terminal Market, Food Trust
— we are looking at you.

Ikea to America: your wasteful ways make our beautiful Scandinavian forests cry [Newswire]
Ikea to cut its customers’ plastic bag consumption in half in one year to 35 million, the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees [AP / Philadelphia Inquirer]
More than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year []
Bagging the Plastic Bag [Ikea, Official Site, halfway down]

[ Lead photo via Flickr user MikeWebkist ]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Shame of Philadelphia: Recycling

[Editors’ note: 2007 is the year of an incredibly important Mayor’s race in Philadelphia. And as such, we recognize that there are a number of critical issues facing the city, including the extremely serious and indisputably paramount problems surrounding 1) gun violence and 2) public education. About those, however, we have to defer to individuals much smarter than we, and instead focus on ones with more tangible and easily attainable solutions such as transit, zoning and recycling.]

Philadelphia’s residential recycling rate is an abominable 5%. It’s the second lowest among large U.S. cities, ahead of only Houston — not exactly something to boast about — and far behind cities like Chicago (14%), Washington, D.C. (17%), New York (20%), Boston (23%), Baltimore (27%) and Los Angeles (45%).

Two weeks ago, the New York City Department of Sanitation ran a giant, two full page ad in the Sunday New York Times about how the Department’s new 20-year plan is committed to raising the residential recycling rate from 20% to at least 25%.

And from the Philadelphia Streets Department? A Valentine's-themed press release about Philadelphians not being that into dating litterbugs.

One method seems a bit more direct and convincing than the other.

But look, we’re not trying to point fingers (ahem, Mr. Mayor). Pretty much everyone could do more to recycle. (In Japan, the residential recycling rate approaches 80% in some cities.) Were simply trying to give it the attention it deserves.

And to make sure something is done about it.

A city that recycles more is a cleaner city — both on the ground and in the air. It's also a more economically sustainable city. A more environmentally friendly city. A more progressive city. A more desirable city. And so forth.

RecycleBankAnd thanks to Jonathan Saideland the good people at RecycleBank and the Next Great City, there’s an easy solution.
Philadelphians throw out about 800,000 tons of trash a year. The city controller found that, by increasing Philadelphia’s recycling rates to ones comparable to those in peer cities, the city would save $17 million a year.

A 2005-2006 neighborhood pilot program showed that Philadelphians will recycle if provided with these incentives: single-sort containers into which they can throw newspapers, cans, and bottles; weekly curbside pickup; and local store "dollars." Philadelphia’s recycling rate of 5% is the second worst of any large city in the country.

Yet in 2005, when the city partnered with a private company named RecycleBank to provide weekly curbside recycling pickup for 2,500 residents in Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane neighborhoods, that rate significantly increased.

During the first year of this program, 90% of households in Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane recycled. The amount of waste recycled rose 300% in Chestnut Hill and 400% in West Oak Lane.
So what’s the hold-up, right?
In John Street's seven years, Philadelphia's recycling rate hasn't budged. It isn't a matter of money. A 2005 report from the then-city controller concluded that recycling would save the city $17 million a year.

Still, the city is fiddling with its pilot programs, while freezing negotiations with RecycleBank. RecycleBank is a locally owned company that runs an "incentive"-based recycling pilot program involving 2,500 homes in Chestnut Hill and West Oak Lane. The company "pays" residents to recycle with an average of $400 in coupons redeemable at local merchants.

RecycleBank's Patrick Fitzgerald says he'd need only a sitdown with John Street to move recycling forward. But after eight months of stalled negotiations with the city's Department of Streets, the mayor has yet to grant Fitzgerald an audience.
There really shouldn’t be a hold-up. Except that, like so many other things, it’s not a priority for Mayor Street.

There’s going to be a special hearing about recycling in City Council next week.
City Council to Hold Hearing on Recycling; Streets Department Called to Answer for Low Recycling Rate

The City Council Streets and Services Committee will hold a Public Hearing on Recycling Thursday, February 22, 2007, at 1:00 PM, in Room 400, City Hall. The subject regards recycling, the low rate of recycling in the City currently, and potential methods to increase the recycling diversion rate.
We would not, however, recommend holding your breath. For real, substantive change, we’re going to need a new sheriff — and probably one that rides in on the Nutter Express.

RecyclingUPDATE: Streets Department to West Philly: Recycle THIS.
With a City Council hearing on Philadelphia's abysmal recycling rate a week away, the Streets Department today is announcing a major expansion that will allow residents in the West and Southwest to recycle plastics and cardboard - and to toss everything into one bin.

So-called single-stream collection began last summer in the Northeast. The department says the program has been so successful - the recycling rate increased about 30 percent - that on March 5, it will expand to cover nearly half the city's 550,000 households.
[Evan Belser, a recycling advocate for Clean Water Action,] said it was "unfortunate" the department decided to expand without consulting its Recycling Advisory Committee, of which he is a member.

"A lot of professionals and very interested, passionate recyclers sit on that committee," he said. "They're not being seen as a resource, and frankly, the recycling program needs all the resources it can get."
It’s true. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Why Philadelphia should recycle more, spelled out [Next Great City]
There’s a good chance that Philadelphia’s residential recycling rate has remained at 5% for seven years because the Streets Department is simply making it up [Philadelphia City Paper]
Recycle Now Philadelphia [Official Site]
Rewarding Recyclers, and Finding Gold in the Garbage [New York Times]

Monday, February 12, 2007

Google Maps adds subway stops, Septa prepares to file suit

OK, so maybe the second part is a bit facetious, but knowing SEPTA it could easily be true. After all, SEPTA doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to embracing smart, progressive ideas.

For example, SEPTA — the public transit authority for the fifth largest city in the United States, mind you — initially opposed Philly Car Share because they didn’t understand how carsharing could possibly benefit transit rider-ship, despite all evidence to the contrary.
[Members of] car sharing programs report a 47% increase in public transit trips, a 10% increase in bicycling trips and a 26% increase in walking trips. Members are more likely to take advantage of all methods of transportations, [using] cars only when they need to, and often walk of bike more, resulting in healthier residents. []
We’re dead serious by the way — four years ago, SEPTA, with their classic we-can’t-try-anything-new attitude (which comes from the very top), told Philly Car Share they (SEPTA) viewed them (Philly Car Share) as “competition.”
At a recent Young Involved Philadelphia forum on transit, an excited audience of students and young professionals explained to SEPTA General Manager Faye Moor that there is much SEPTA could do to improve service for them, getting their fare money in the process. But Moore frowned and shot down the ideas one-by-one. Moore spent the entire evening talking about what was not possible.
So forgive us if we’re a tad cynical — SEPTA Management has earned it.

We will, however, give SEPTA credit when they deserve it… and they deserve it for their new SEPTA Pass Perks campaign. SEPTA has always had trouble thinking out of the box so it’s refreshing to stumble across a coaster at your local bar reading:

Perks that beat our no-$18/hour parking-garage perk.

See. That wasn’t so hard. We only wish SEPTA would do a little more shit-talking. Eventually, drivers might listen.

Google Maps add subway stops, building footprints [Gothamist]
SEPTA needs to help Philadelphia reach its potential [City Paper]
Carsharing 101 [San Francisco Chronicle]
Perks that beat our Board Members’ Septa-non-usage perks [SEPTA Pass Perks]

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oh snap — CRAP is back

Allen Iverson is the ballsYes, people, it’s true.

After a flurry of activity in 2005 that seemingly positioned it to give Old City a run for its spiked hair- and pushup bra-loving money, Chestnut Right Around the Park or CRAP (hat tip to Ms. Pressler) had quieted down over the past year and a half, without a single high-profile restaurant/bar/lounge opening. (Yes there was Copa Miami, but come on…)

Do not despair — 2007 will see new life breathed into the burgeoning nightlife hub with the arrival of Red Sky II. As suggested by Foobooz in December, the folks behind Red Sky, the Old City restaurant-cum-lounge, will, for sure, be taking over a satellite location in CRAP, at none other than 1904 Chestnut Street, the former location of Little Pete’s Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge, directly opposite of Avram Hornik's Drinker's Pub and Noche Lounge.

This brings the total to three of the number of Old City nightspots that have extended their reach to CRAP. First it was Stephen Starr with Continental Midtown at 18th and Chestnut. Then Hornick upped lowered the ante with Drinker’s Pub at 1903 Chestnut. And now Red Sky II (with a possible upscale Asian motif) comes to 1904 Chestnut from sibling team Scott and Sean Stein.

(But, alas, there will be no more AI to parade around.)

No timetable for when it will open but work on the space is already underway.

Now if only the Boyd Theater (Red Sky II’s neighbor) would get off its ass and get awesome.

Red Sky [Official Site]
CRAP is born [Philadelphia Weekly, third item]
Live Nation halts Boyd renovation; city officials — wait for it — do nothing [Changing Skyline]

Breaking: Mac's LOST

So Season 3 of LOST returned this week after a four-month hiatus and imagine our surpise when we saw who wound up in the first show back as a new character, an “Other” … none other than Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia aka Rob McElhenney, the FX sitcom’s creator and co-star, and a native Philadelphian.

It turns out that several writers of LOST are apparently big fans of Always Sunny and when they met McElhenney at a dinner, they invited him to tour the LOST campus in LA.
I just wanted to see how a real show functions. I went on to the Disney lot, and it's this big, beautiful office, with arcade games... and I met Damon [Lindelof, LOST co-creator]. And he kind of gave me a tour, and he said, 'Hey, if you ever want to be on the show, let me know.' And I was like, 'Yes, I will be on the show, please.' "
So, McElhenney made his LOST debut this Wednesday in the episode “Not in Portland.” Does a decent job too.

In other news, look for Always Sunny to begin shooting in Philadelphia for the show’s upcoming third season in a few weeks (sometime in March). We hope to god that it’s warmer by then — the city can come across a little bleak on film in the wintertime.

Here’s a recap of the episode; McElhenney shows up around 1:35.

McElhenney goes to dinner, scores free trip to Hawaii [Philadelphia Daily News]
LOST Character Profile: Aldo [Lostpedia]