Pure Genius

Green initiatives highlighted at international flower show

Posting in Cities

How one city is working to protect its environment and sustain the Earth's natural resources.

The theme of this year's Philadelphia International Flower Show, which opened Sunday and runs through the weekend, is "Passport to the World" with a focus on floral designs from around the globe. But almost as prevalent were exhibits dedicated to protecting the environment (flowers included) and sustaining the Earth's natural resources.

When I visited the show on its opening day, I opted for the "green tour." Here are a few highlights:

City Harvest: This program brings food to Philadelphia's under-served population by way of a partnership between the city prison system and dozens of local community gardens. The seedlings begin in a prison greenhouse, cultivated by inmates as part of a job-readiness program. Then, they're transferred to community gardens for full growth. When it's ready, the fresh produce is delivered to one of the city's food cupboards, where needy residents not only get seasonal vegetables, but also cooking demonstrations and tastings to help them prepare the food. Since its launch in 2006, the program has delivered more than 55,000 pounds of produce.

Healthy Streams: The Philadelphia Water Department exhibit details efforts to unearth urban streams, which were buried in the 1800s to minimize health risks from polluted water. Now that raw sewage is no longer dumped into the river and laws limit industrial water pollution, the city is working to bring back miles of streams, creating a habitat for animals and better quality water for residents. Scientists are recreating natural elements, such as riffles and pools, to slow down water when it enters streams. Once the flow is restored, native plants and trees will be added around the banks to complete the stream habitat. Residents can assist the effort by stabilizing bare soil with plants, limiting impervious surfaces, such as concrete, on their property and letting grass grow near stream banks.

Living Wall: Show attendees clamored for photographs of the PNC Bank "Living Wall," a 16-foot high exhibit of plants, such as ferns and vines, and recycled materials, including metal signs, galvanized roofing, old lumber, doors and windows (shown below). Created in collaboration with local landscape designer Michael Petrie, the wall echoes the recently-unveiled 2,380-square-foot green wall at the bank's Pittsburgh headquarters.

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Christina Hernandez Sherwood

Contributing Writer

Contributing Writer Christina Hernandez Sherwood has written for the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education and Columbia Journalism Review. She holds degrees from the University of Delaware and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure