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  • Meet the 2018 SustainPHL Nominees: Climate Hero SUSTAINPHL CLIMATE HEROS NOMINEES 2018 Full view

    Meet the 2018 SustainPHL Nominees: Climate Hero

    Our three nominees for Climate Hero of the Year are combating climate change through communications and large-scale initiatives & programs. From championing Philadelphia’s climate adaptation plan to fostering collaboration between disparate climate initiatives, each works to create local climate solutions that connect people and build strong communities. Join us for SustainPHL on August 16th to find out who will become our Climate Hero of the Year!

    • Sarah Wu
    • Climate & Urban Systems Partnership
    • Meenal Raval


    Driven to help Philadelphians live the best lives they can, today and in the future

    Sarah Wu Climate Hero

    “I believe that transparent and accountable local governments hold great power to improve the lives of their residents, and that without preparation, climate change will dramatically decrease quality of life, particularly for historically marginalized communities.”

    As the City of Philadelphia’s climate champion for over eight years, Sarah Wu works to empower Philadelphia’s government and residents to jointly create a city, present and future, that is equitable, healthy, sustainable, and economically vibrant for all. Sarah, the Deputy Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, has managed the City’s climate adaptation planning and wrote Growing Stronger: Toward a Climate Ready Philadelphia, oversaw the 2016 update of the City’s sustainability plan, Greenworks, and served as a key ally to climate partners, such as Drexel’s 80 x 50 report, Penn’s Data Refuge Project, and the Franklin Institute’s Climate Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP). As part of the Growing Stronger initiative, Sarah worked with climate scientists to understand what climate changes are coming to Philadelphia and used that information about our hotter, wetter future to understand what and who is vulnerable to those changes. She also explored opportunities to adapt and improve outcomes as the climate changes and then worked with City of Philadelphia departments and agencies to start making those changes.

    A fierce advocate for environmental justice, Sarah’s work at the Office of Sustainability seeks to expose and address the underlying causes of disparities in the environmental stressors that different Philadelphia populations experience. She also trained Office of Sustainability staff on implicit and explicit bias, and individual, institutional, and structural racism, to give them the tools they need to apply a racial equity lens to sustainability and climate work. Sarah is also a part of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, and has chaired their Equity Working Group to better connect sustainability and equity in city efforts across the country.

    In addition to her climate work, Sarah helped to found and co-chaired the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council, which connects Philadelphians and their local government to create a more just food system.


    Changing the landscape of sustainability in Philadelphia by addressing climate change locally

    CUSP Climate Hero

    “CUSP’s whole approach to climate change is to make it local, relevant, and solutions-focused.”

    The Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) is a community of local stakeholders who share a passion for engaging residents in climate change issues. Over the past 5 years, the group has grown to 300 members from 90 local organizations from such diverse fields as the environment, arts, culture, non-profit, policy, and education. Through CUSP, partners learn evidence-based approaches to climate change communication that they infuse into their work all over the city. The Franklin Institute, who manages CUSP, also provides support for partners to engage residents together at festivals in special areas called Climate Cities, and has provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in small grants for partners to collaborate on innovative climate change outreach projects, which have impacted countless Philadelphians. CUSP’s Climate Experience program, geared toward older adullts (60+) is delivered at community centers and using a collaborative,hands-on approach, explores the local impacts of climate change and the available responses to those impacts.

    CUSP is also unique, in that it provides frequent opportunities for partners to interact, which has formed a close-knit, highly engaged climate change communication community; one that works together more often to achieve collective impact. CUSP uses approaches that are local, relevant, solutions focused, aligned with the latest research showing that “doom and gloom” does not motivate people to engage on climate. According to director, Richard Johnson, when CUSP partners engage the public, they use fun, approachable techniques, and ultimately help people answer the question, “What does climate change mean for me, and what can I do about it?”


    A local climate advocate who won’t take no for an answer

    MENNAL RAVAL Climate Hero

    “Keep asking yourself this… The temperature is rising. What can YOU do?”

    For the past two years, local activist Meenal Raval has worked with many groups in and around Philadelphia, including 350 Philly, Earth Quaker Action Team, East Mt Airy Tree Tenders, NW Philly Solar Co-op, PA Interfaith Power & Light, and Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign in Montgomery County.   Known for her persistence and intelligence, Meenal advocates for community based solutions that support both a strong local economy and resilience to climate change. Among her projects is a weekly update of climate related events, reaching hundreds of people across the Delaware Valley. Realizing that solving the climate puzzle requires a multi-pronged approach, Meenal highlights educational events and workshops, as well as local rallies and demonstrations in these updates.

    Meenal “walks the walk” when it comes to fighting climate change, embracing a zero-waste low-carbon voluntarily simple lifestyle in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.


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    Lori Braunstein

    About Lori Braunstein

    Lori Braunstein is the founder of Sustainable Cherry Hill and Director for Change Leadership at The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education. Always evolving, she enjoys figuring out how everyday people can be a force in creating a clean, green future. Reach Lori at braunsteinlori@gmail.com or @lori_braun on Twitter.

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