This week Green Philly Blog is interviewing some of Philadelphia’s women sustainability leaders in honor of closing out March as International Women’s History Month. Some of the women are well-known in our city, and some are a little more under the radar. Our interview for today is with Executive Director of Tookany/Tacony-Frankford (TTF) Watershed, Julie Slavet!
A Boston native, Julie Slavet has been involved in the sustainability scene for over 30 years. Designing her own undergraduate degree in environmental studies (since it didn’t exist yet) at Smith College, she proceeded to get an energy independence internship with the National League of Cities and go on to receive her grad degree at UMass. Some other initiatives included work on local, sustainable initiatives in Washington and local governments in Massachusetts. Not one to settle for par, she left a Dallas Texas Suburban hell to raise her family in the more walkable Philadelphia community, Jenkintown. After working various local communication positions and learning about sustainable initiatives in Philly, she landed her role at the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed. Let’s get to our interview with (the other) Julie!
Green Philly Blog: What are your main goals as executive director of the TTF?
Julie Slavet: I have a few goals as director of TTF. First, I want to ensure that the organization is strong and sustainable with an extraordinary staff and a solid base of diversified funding so we can continue to do our critical work. In order to encourage participation, I want to turn as many people as possible into watershed heroes and establish an identity for our watershed. I really like that we can bring people together across county lines, since it’s interconnected due to the watershed, not that they live in Jenkintown, Olney or Abington. They want their kids and families to enjoy the watershed.
One of my other main goals is to plant riparian buffers along as much of the creek as possible.
GPB: What sustainability initiatives are you most proud of, either personally or professionally?
Julie Slavet: Personally, I am most proud of the fact that my adult children navigate the world on public transportation and were raised in a walkable community. Rather than raising them in Plano, Texas (built by Ross Perot combined by Frito Lay headquarters and a suburban nightmare), we chose to raise them where they could walk to places. I’m also proud that recycling for many of us (but not enough) comes naturally and that I occasionally get my husband to turn off lights when he leaves the room.
Professionally, I am proud of both being part of the exciting work of the City of Philadelphia in solving its storm water runoff problem through green infrastructure – The Green City, Clean Waters campaign is a great initiative. I’m also proud of bringing diverse people and communities together across boundaries with the goal of protecting our watershed.
GPB: When did sustainability become important to you?
Julie Slavet: Sustainability became critically important to me when I waited in a gas line on Capitol Hill in 1979, the summer after I graduated from college. The energy crisis of the 70s lead to a lot of great policies and analysis, like investing in solar power – but then nothing happened. It’s been interesting to see such energy policies coming around again.
GPB: What’s one ‘green’ thing that you think everyone should do?
Julie Slavet: Stop purchasing water in plastic bottles.
GPB: UGH! We hate water bottles. I actually just stocked up on a few Klean Kanteens since they were having a great Spring Sale – I seem to have misplaced a few of my stainless steel versions. Anyway, if you could travel to any pristine place in the world, where would it be?
Julie Slavet: Is there anyplace that’s really still pristine? I really love seeing the good old USA, so I’m going to say Everglades National Park in Florida. I’d like to get there in an Airstream with my husband.