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  • Green Careers: How Dom McGraw Found his Path to Sustainability dom-mcgraw-speaker-panel Full view

    Green Careers: How Dom McGraw Found his Path to Sustainability

    One of the perks of writing Green Philly for 10 years has been seeing professionals around me flourish in their career.

    When I first met Dominic McGraw, he invited me to Saxbys headquarters at 23rd and Chestnut to proudly share the local coffee conglomerate’s sustainability efforts. This past March, he spoke our Careers in Sustainability panel on behalf of his role in the City of Philadelphia.

    Let’s dig into how McGraw found his way to the city and how his personal values aligned.

    Dom McGraw’s path to a career in sustainability

    For many professionals working in sustainability, it begins with younger roots. Office of Sustainability’s Energy Project Coordinator, Dom McGraw, can trace back to where his passion started.

    Growing up in Philadelphia, McGraw watched Captain Planet like many 80s kids. At 13, he begrudgingly left the city for Bucks County and volunteered at the Churchville Nature Center with contrasting environments of a meadow, marsh, woodland, pond, and lake. Throughout the season, he began to appreciate the beautiful location while helping with trail upkeep, assisting instructors with kids programs, handling animals, and helping with beehives.

    Although that summer left an impact, McGraw didn’t initially pursue sustainability as a career.  His other lifelong passion was music, so Dom went to college for music recording. After a brief stint in booking artists, he got into DJ’ing on the side (which he still does for many local fitness studios!) Once McGraw realized he wouldn’t be a producer for huge bands, he went back to school for IT. Next, he found himself working at the University of Pennsylvania with a convenient tuition benefit able to pursue a Master of Environmental Studies.

    As a part of his masters, he pitched a sustainability coordinator role for PennLaw and ended up implementing many of his sustainability initiatives. McGraw then moved on to Hersha Hospitality Management for an IT role. Next, he made his way to Saxbys coffee for a duel IT/Sustainability Coordinator Role, where he created cafe Green Teams, tracked water and energy usage and reduced waste.

    In 2016, McGraw made his way to the City of Philadelphia Office of Sustainability’s Energy Office. Alongside his three Energy Office colleagues, McGraw manages the Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Fund as Energy Project Coordinator. The annual $500K in capital funds is given to different city departments for sustainability projects, for initiatives like HVAC renovations and LED lighting. Although lighting may sound like a small switch, many police and fire stations require 24-hour light and can add up. Since the Energy Office pays the utilities for the 600+ municipal buildings, they can track the difference.

    “We’re creating more budget certainty by reducing energy use. (Sustainability) doesn’t only have an environmental impact.” – Dom McGraw

    Also, an energy-efficient switch also lessens the maintenance and manpower needed. For example, LED lights only need changing every 15 years versus conventional light bulbs with a much shorter life cycle.

    Plus, the environmental benefits are enormous. The Energy Office unveiled a Municipal Energy Master Plan in September to help fight climate change. As McGraw explains,

    “Fixing the built environment has the best return for a greenhouse gas reduction.”

    Personal Values of Sustainability

    At 18, Dom went vegetarian. Like many vegetarians, he doesn’t understand the disconnect between our household pets and those animals on our plates. “People are so in love with their cats and dogs but don’t even give a second look at how a pig or cow is treated. But if a person abuses a dog, it becomes a crazy thing.”

    After a project for his collegiate natural science class about the links between factory farming and the environment, he decided to take the plunge to veganism. According to McGraw, he thought, “I’m lactose intolerant, why am I doing this anyway?”, celebrating this 10-year “veganniversary” in November.

    That animals-as-food argument also holds a similar comparison for climate change, which McGraw suggested branding as ‘hurricane prevention.’ “Until people have a visual and it directly impacts them, it doesn’t really resonate.

    Rebranding “hurricane prevention” or not, McGraw is making his mark in Philadelphia.


    Cover Photo: Dom McGraw on the Green Philly ‘Careers in Sustainability’ panel in March 2017, along with panelist Melissa Lee, The GREEN Program. 

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    Julie Hancher

    About 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.

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