Stress on Urban Forests (by Anna)

The Urban Forests, which are patches of vegetation left in the city, are beneficial to the health of a city and its environment ecstatically and economically. As cities grow, the human population changes the natural landscape into “highly human-dominated environments” (Alberti). This process of urbanization changes the natural flow of nutrients, the energy cycle, the hydrogen cycle as well as the species which will live in this new habitat. This change puts stresses on various species, with the result of their population decreasing, and in some cases completely dying out. The result is an urban environment with lack of diversity in its species of vegetation and animals. The varieties of trees and shrubs which survive are limited, due to lack of nutrients, space, water, soil quality and presence of pollution. It is impressive to see that in the city there are still islands of shrubs and trees despite the many harsh conditions into which they are forced to live in. The number of vegetation in a city is limited, and will degrease if humans do not reconsider a more effective way of managing urban forests.

With the lack of trees, and larger tracks of wild land, the city becomes a “heated island” during summer, where there is little vegetation to keep the temperatures cooler and more manageable. On the contrary, an island of trees is beautiful, gives shade, and acts as a filter and improving air quality. These patches absorbs assess rain runoff, reduces noise pollution, and creates habitats for wildlife in the city. The local changes of the environment influence larger scale changes of the global environment, and “influence human behavior and dynamics and affect human health and well-being” (Alberti).  It is in the best interest of every community to contribute to the efforts in sustaining Urban Forests. They create comfortable, beautiful landscapes which do not only bring property value up, but the health of the ecosystem and of human health as well. This input from the community is necessary for the survival of urban forests, because unlike rural forests, “they are not self-sustaining and require an input of human energy for maintenance” (Cushing). Trees do not have a long life span in cities, due to pollution, earth compaction, limited space for growth and roots and pollution. The change in the global environment is another issue which impacts the wellbeing of urban forests, though the rise of global temperatures. Trees which do not tolerate the heat well will not be seen as far to the south as before. Those species will be limited to northern regions of United States. One way to expand the life of city trees is to pick the right trees, such as once that usually grow in a similar environment in your area. It is important that the tree is tolerant of the extreme temperatures which occur as well as natural disasters such as floods. The location of the potential spot of growing your tree is very important, since there must be enough space for the tree to grow past its maturity. It is also important to have a plan of how it would be taken care of in your community. Planning is an important factor in sustaining urban forests, and city trees. A tree is an investment into the well being of your own environment, which can be quite rewarding.


Alberti, Marina. Preface. Advances in Urban Ecology Integrating Humans and Ecological Processes in Urban Ecosystems. New York: Springer, 2008.

Cushing, Stephen. Urban Tree Selection Based on Environmental Stresses and Plant Responses: Development of a Selection Guide. Diss. The University of Guelph, 2009. 2009.



Urban Greening Grant Proposal- Heat Energy via Septa

Urban Greening Grant Proposal- Heat Energy via Septa

For our Green proposal we wanted to address the issue of an alternative energy. We wanted to take advantage of crowded train stations and use the excess body heat as an energy source. This energy is usually lost, but could potentially rescue the cost of heating buildings during winter, which is one of the most expensive utilities of a building. With less demand on using conventional heating system, we would reduce the carbon foot print benefiting the overall health of the environment.  A busy train station is a constant source of energy, with thousands of people passing by each day.  The flow of people is larger on weekdays, when the buildings need to be heated the most. This new system of energy conservation would benefit Philadelphia, as well as help Septa meet conservation goals of 2015

Tree Planting With UC Green

Tree Planting with UC GREEN

Saturday October 15, 2011: 9am-12pm UC Green Tree Planting —3 Hrs Complete by Xiao Yang (Layla)

Me and three other students from green vs grey class volunteered 3 hrs on Saturday October 15, 2011, tree planting at West Philadelphia. Oyin, Tre and I meet up at the Tech Center around 8:15 AM to wait for our professor. The weather was windy and COLD!! We left the Tech Center around 8:30 and head to Chestnut and 45th stress on a white Temple Van.

When we arrived we signed in, got our gloves, made name tags, got our T-shirts and had breakfast (Donuts and Water). After that, we split into teams. I don’t remember how many team there were, but it was somewhere in between 6-8. I and Oyin were in the same team with another girl, Janette, from U Penn. We started talking about our majors and where we were originally from. Turns out, I was the only business major =(. So our team leader was a very nice African American lady in her forties. She bought 2 grand children with her and we learned a lot from her.

We walked 2 blocks from 45th and Chestnut and arrived in 44th and Chestnut where we planted our trees. We walked down there with about 10 people. One of the other leader did a demonstration on how to loosen up the roots of the trees to help the trees survive in the new soil and how deep to dig the hole. After that, we got our tools and gears and then we split into group of 3-4. Janette, Oyin and I were in the same team and we got to plant the second tree in the corner of 44th and Chestnut.

First we spread out the giant sheet on the floor to ensure that we do not have to clean up any mess afterwards. Then we remove the trees from the pot by having one person pulling on the pot and the other on the root of the tree. Once we got that done, we stump on the roots to loosen them up and we also used something called the Garden Fork to hit the roots. In addition, when we reach the hard and big roots, we used a scissor to cut them.

Once we were finish with loosening the roots. We started DIGGING!! Yay!! I got the sharp shovels and started digging. I thought it was going to be fun.. Well, it was fun for the first 10-15 minutes. After that, I just got tired. There were so many rocks in the soil and there were like three layers of different soils. First there was the good black soil, then it was grey, then orange, and then yellow. It gets harder to dig as we get deeper, so I and my team mates decided to take turns digging. After a while, we check the height of the hole. The height of our hole has to be the same height as the pot that was holding the tree. We measured it and it was just right so we put in the tree for testing. We lay the shovels horizontally across the hole to see if it was too tall. Turns out it was so we had to put more soil into the hole to make the hole shorter so that it doesn’t cover the top root of the tree.

It was time to fill the holes back in. Since our soil wasn’t well mixed, we had to mix them! Some of us use shovels, but I just got down on the ground and use my hands. Putting the soil back in the hole was way easier than digging it out. While our team leader holds the tree, we put the soil back. She stumps on the soil to make sure that it holds the tree. Later we make a donut around the tree and then add in the mulch. Finally we watered the tree and put the bamboo sticks on the sides and tie it with string to protect it.

This volunteer work was a great experience for me because not only did I learn how to plant a tree, but I helped green our city and increased public green space. In addition, the trees we planted with UC green can help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and might increase the property value of the stores in front of the trees we planted.

Below is some random videos and pictures I took throughout the day:

Feeding the Poor Birdies at the Tech Center While waiting for our professor =)

============Pictures Taken Throughout the Day================

Planting at Sonia Sanchez Garden

Bianca: Resident gardening expert.

Anna: Camerawoman.

Shirley: Navigator.

Amount of time completed: 2 hours

Hiya, I’m Shirley Choi and this week’s writer!

Yesterday on October 1st, the Sonia Sanchez Garden was spruced up. Bianca, Anna, and I helped with de-weeding and planting tulip and daffodil bulbs. (Unfortunately, Layla couldn’t make it.)

The day started with meeting at the Tyler School of Art’s cafe at 1:30 PM. After relaxing for a bit, I led the way to the garden, which was on Diamond and Carlisle streets. It took about ten minutes to walk there.

First we saw a large, beautiful mural. But under it, a fence covered in weeds, rocks littered on the pathway, dead life everywhere… the space looked like a dump. Two girls from the Temple Community Garden were chilling on a bench. They told us that the other volunteers were having lunch.

Another girl named Anna arrived, and it turned out that she was from our Green vs Gray class too. She was here without her group.

A red-haired woman in a red Temple U. shirt showed up a few minutes later, and we introduced ourselves. After signing in, she discovered that we were all aspiring art students (ie, undecided, planning to transfer to art, etc), and talked to us about an art program they were planning to do. We agreed to help and exchanged contact info.

Shayna, who seemed like the leader of this whole event, came and introduced herself too.

An Asian woman arrived and inspected the damage as everyone else continued to trickle into the garden. Tulip and daffodil bulbs were sitting in bags, courtesy of donors.

“The tips should be facing up, and you can see the roots on the bottom beginning to sprout,” she said later, showing us the underside of a tulip bulb. The dirt should then be packed on gently at about half-an-inch deep and watered.

We set to work, most of us assigned to de-weed first. “Anything dead, put it in a pile,” our Asian leader said. The plan was to make a huge compost pile.

The problem was Anna and I didn’t know what were weeds or not. Bianca, our resident expert, helped a lot with that. Afterwards, it was just a lot of repressed rage coming loose as we pulled all the weeds out, which seemed to be endless and everywhere.

Starting to attack the weeds.

More de-weeding!

Even more de-weeding!

Camerawoman Anna sneaks away for a shot.

The compost pile grew bigger, like a monster. Our clothes were full of dirt.

Eventually we started piling rocks too. There were a lot of dead things on the other side of the path, so our Asian woman led us out to the main garden, (where people got their own garden boxes for $10 to plant whatever they wanted.) There were a lot of rakes and shovels there, so we hauled one for each of us back to the little space.


Group photo!

Small helper posing for the paparazzi.

Planting was beginning to happen, and our rakes were like mini plows. Bianca and Anna started on tulips as I focused on composting every dead thing still there. The other Anna joined our group as we hoarded a little square to plant daffodils and tulips. I finally planted some bulbs, and it was an amazing feeling!

Near the end of the day, Shayna gathered us all to speak about Sonia Sanchez, her awesomeness, and read one of Sonia’s poems. After that, we finished planting the last of the bulbs.

“I can’t wait to come back in the Spring,” said Anna.

Shayna says a few words about Sonia Sanchez.

The mural at the end of the day.

Something weird we saw on the way home.

Andrew Light

1.            Andrew Light argued that all citizens must get their “hands dirty” to run a successful sustainable city. He argues that the regular citizen wouldn’t care about the environment to do much for it, and that they should be encouraged instead of threatened by law. Light has a good idea about making people care about the environment through direct involvement.  

      In effect, Light assures that by taking the first step the citizens would eventually grow a desire within themselves for action without prompting. “If someone is normative and participatory with the land around, then she is less likely to allow it to be harmed further,” explained Light. It is hard for people to destroy something which they created with their own hands that takes a lot of time and energy. It is akin to making a painting, putting in hours of labor and effort, only to slash the canvas. Inspiring people have a similar kind of attachment to their natural surroundings and the urban involvement would be beneficial in many respects. For example, a news article from Graffiti Hurts, owned by Keep America Beautiful, describes the use of “a community mural to restore a wall chronically hit with graffiti. Graffiti vandals only occasionally tag a paint-brush mural, and they are a great way to get the community involved in graffiti prevention. Murals can involve local artists, youth and community volunteers, and the local paint store, which may be willing to donate paint and brushes.” 

       If each individual had a strong sense of attachment to their city, thinking of it as their home, the city would be a healthier place. Garbage would not be on side of the road and on the walkway, and it would be both beautiful and healthy. If that garbage were to be better-managed, not clogging sewer drains, the rains would bring less runoff to the sewer system. One simple action from the whole community could benefit everyone.

       Andrew Light suggests that the responsibility of everyone to their environment should be one of the mandatory concerns of each citizen. His suggestion of calling attention to the environmental problems is to focus on problems that seem to be directly concerning the public. If the law states to do something, it does not necessary mean that the public will follow the law right away, or that the law will be particularly enforced. A historical example of this would be the laws that gave African Americans equal rights, but they were not effective until the people themselves started to change. Similar examples can be seen in parts of our own environment today. We see signs that say, “No littering, $300 fine,” but there below lies a heap of garbage and litter. To prevent this, people must be made concerned, or it will not change.

      However, Light also states that the urban environment shouldn’t entirely be in the citizens’ hands. “Such a suggestion would be absurd,” he states. “Clearly, we would want a variety of regulatory actors to step in to ensure that a consistent range of quality… is maintained.” In other words, there should be an ‘overseer’ of sorts to lead and make sure that no one is doing their tasks incorrectly or abusing power. The government could pass laws which would start the process of thinking about the big picture, and make programs which would evolve communities in this progress. This also goes for those litter-free signs, which would be more effective, but more importantly, the enforcement to back it up. There are also many government-supported environmental groups to choose from – for example, there is an entire force devoted to the conservation of the Everglades. 

Light’s callings are overall high in expectations, as officials and political leaders are typically unresponsive in these matters. For example, violations of the Clean Water Act are many, according to a Community and Environmental Defense Services survey, and only one in four are even resolved.


2.           Green spaces require the thoughts and efforts of their citizens, all working towards a common goal: which is to create and maintain an environmentally sustainable area. Cities would be split into smaller “local publics,” so that each area could focus on creating spaces that the local peoples can live in without outsourcing or have the need for non-local goods. Each local public would densely populated, so that public transportation and sharing apartments would be the norm, both examples which could drive people towards a sense of community.

      A college campus is an example of a local public, as it’s potential is reference in this 2010 survey by Urban Habitats: “Respondents agree that they would spend more of their spare time on campus if the natural vegetation and bird and animal life of the campus were improved. They also feel that should this happen, their attitude toward the campus and their work would improve. This opinion is stronger among students than among personnel, which could again be explained by the fact that students reside on campus.”

      Green spaces in the city can act as outlets to the busy lifestyles of its citizens. Just a patch of green trees beautifies the city, creates an open space in an otherwise crowded block. Recreational areas, such as parks and waterways, give an opportunity for people living in the city to enjoy the sun, relax and connect with nature.  People are drawn to green spaces, and in this way they can form bonds to build better communities.

      A green space does not have to be as vast as a park – a neighborhood can have landscaped areas which has the added benefit of bringing financial, health, and community value to the block. In a survey by Project Evergreen, “90 percent of those surveyed agreed that landscaping is important in improving their home’s value at sale time. However, only 50 percent agreed that landscaping was important in reducing energy costs. In the same way there seems to be a lack of knowledge of the role green space can play in helping regulate air quality. Forty percent of survey respondents either disagreed or said they ‘didn’t know’ that trees, shrubs and turfgrass remove pollutants from the air.” Like aesthetics and property values, environmental education is just as important if we can ever step forward into Light’s proposals. Unfortunately, much of humanity are sadly lacking in that area.

Group Charter

Group Name: Sonic Rain Boom

Goals / Mission Statement:

To take time out of our busy schedules in an effort to contribute to and beautify our community by working with community groups from all over Philadelphia.

We hope to contribute at least the ten hours required by the Green vs. Gray course and to better learn from the environment.

Group Members:

·         Shirley Choi

·         Bianca M Cianfarini

·         Anna Lepaeva

·         Xiao Yang (Layla)

Member Roles:

·         Shirley Choi: Web Designer and Blogger/Writer

·         Bianca M Cianfarini: Blog Editor

·         Anna Lepaeva: Deadline manager and Meeting Leader

·         Xiao Yang (Layla): Time Keeper and Team Project Monitor

Blog writing duties will be rotated.

Communication Methods:

·         Group E-mailing

·         Cellphone | Texting|

·         Skype or WebEx (If necessary)

Expectations and Standards:

  • Be positive!
  • Do not shirk your assigned responsibility.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help from other group members!
  • Complete all assignments/projects distributed by the Green vs. Gray course to make a successful blog.
  • Do all this in a timely manner.

Decision making:

Potential group works will be decided on by a majority. Since our group has four members, in the event of a tie, a compromise will be discussed.

Resolving conflict:

If the conflict is a scheduling issue, rely on a more instant form of communication ( ex: text instead of email). Please be sure to inform group members well in advance if you cannot attend an event. Be prompt in your response.

If the conflict is a question of duties, please be direct with the group. You don’t have to regret about not liking a duty – surely a compromise can be reached. You may take on other responsibilities.