A discussion about the environment and consumer waste habits called Waste(d) Efforts took place at the Academy of Natural Sciences on Tuesday, Oct. 15. This is one of many discussions hosted by “Pennoni Panels” which is an event hosted by the Pennoni Honors College at Drexel. The Panels cover many hot button topics and host representatives who offer different lenses on the same topic.
At this event, four panelists from different backgrounds offered their insight onto Philadelphia and the environment. They represented a wide range of industry relating to the environment including Dr. Jonathan Deutsch, Professor at the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel; Dr. Marie Kurz, a Senior Scientist at the Academy of Natural Sciences; Kyle Lewis, the Director of Philadelphia Streets Department Recycling, and Ron Whyte, environmental activist, community organizer and blogger of Deep Green Philly. The panel was facilitated by Dr. Jennifer Ayres, a Symposium Visiting Fellow of Drexel.
Around 100 people came to the event Tuesday night. It was probably half-student, half-adult community members who participated in the lively question-and-answer portion of the night. The turnout reflects an uplifting sense of interest and commitment to protecting our environment and working to make Philadelphia a city that produces less waste. Dean Paula Marantz Cohen introduced the event, citing the commitment the panel discussions have to staying honest and civil.
The panel then kicked off with discussion which covered Philadelphia’s waste production compared to other cities, trade policy and infrastructure, culture surrounding need, drinking water, right to clean neighborhoods and types of plastics that Philadelphia recycles. The conversation clearly covered an array of topics that could have been discussed for much longer than the hour and a half time span allotted.
Overall, one clear consensus among all of the panelists was the growing need to produce less waste. The FDA reports that between 30-40% of food supply becomes food waste. The emphasis on “reduce” and “reuse” was emphasized by Dr. Deutsch. Deutsch elaborated on the culture of abundance we have in our society.
He cited the common person’s relationship to meals as imagining “what you want” as opposed to “what’s responsible.” Deutsch also reported that “best if used by” labeling on products are often misleading, and may reflect a product’s best quality, as opposed to safety. This adds to a consumer’s waste and pressure to buy new products more often.
Another misleading statistic discussed by the panelists is that Philadelphia has slightly less waste per person than the average American. One panelist brought up that while this may seem rewarding, the city is still far from where we want to be environmentally sustainable. Further, this statistic may exist due to the city’s poverty and not because of its commitment to sustainability.
Philadelphia still has a number of environmental issues, including potentially contaminated drinking water which is filtered from the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. The panel pointed out a number of times that, despite water treatment and filters, many pollutants (such as pharmaceuticals and micro-plastics) often do not get filtered out.
Audience questions ranged from talking about how to avoid plastic, if Philadelphians recycle at all, which plastic Philadelphia recycles (2, 1, 5), sharing local sustainable businesses in the city like Remark Glass and Newman Paperboard Inc. and how to properly dispose of pharmaceuticals.
While the panel ended at 8 p.m., many people stayed to continue a discussion with individual panelists and enrich their understanding of sustainability practices. Civil discourse was emphasized at the introduction of the session and was clearly well received by the audience. A lively discussion emerged from the insight the panelists delivered. Excitement among the listeners was noticeable as people continued to talk about what they learned or found interesting on the street outside of the Academy of Natural Science Museum, where the panel was held.
Pennoni Panels are a great way to learn more about an issue in a holistic perspective with many points of view presented through representatives while interacting with the Philadelphia community.