Organic AF: Green Philly’s Julie Hancher talks the importance of a more sustainable Philadelphia

In a time of climate change — whether you believe in it or not — it’s crucial to recognize those that are putting in the work to make a change.

SustainPHL, Philadelphia’s annual sustainability awards ceremony, does just that. An offshoot of Green Philly, the media enterprise solely focused on a more sustainable city, this year’s event will be held at WHYY studios and honor local businesses and organizations for their efforts.

Before the Aug. 8 ceremony, we sat down with Julie Hancher, the co-founder of Green Philly, to get her thoughts on the event, it’s importance, what guests can expect and how everyone doing even the smallest of things in Philly can make the city more sustainable.

As climate change continues to prove itself as a real threat, what’s the supreme importance in recognizing people, businesses and organizations for their sustainability efforts?

We’re a city that treats itself as underdogs, and it’s important to highlight those change makers in our city that are making positive changes every day. Listen, July 2019 was confirmed as the hottest on record ever. We’re facing a huge challenge with climate change. It’s not just one entity that will solve climate change. It’s going to take all of us —  individuals, businesses, nonprofits and civic/government working together to make a difference.

What makes a person or organization an ideal nominee? 

Our categories cross these above sectors to highlight how people in our region are the change makers leading to a cleaner, greener city. Each year our committee has a tough selection with over 150 nominees, but it’s amazing that we’ve recognized over 125 unique local change makers over the past four years. It’s truly inspiring to see what these nominees accomplish, from a 14-year-old entrepreneur (Anna Welsh of little bags, BIG IMPACT) who has donated over $4,000 to Tree House Books to tackle childhood literacy in underserved Philly neighborhoods. There’s also Alisa Shargorodsky helping businesses go zero waste, and Ken Hamilton of Green Allies who mentors students to become sustainability leaders. I mean, how cool is that?

What facet of the event do you most look forward to every year?

The palpable excitement and celebration of gathering Philadelphia’s brightest change makers in one room. Every year, I’m blown away by our nominees — most of whom I don’t know beforehand — and am excited to meet them in person. I also love continuing to highlight their work, often featuring them on Green Philly or as speakers at events.

What can guests expect at the event?

Local fare from Hungry Harvest, Weckerly’s Ice Cream, Philly Foodworks and more. Sampling local cocktails, beer and Quaker City Shrubs, live music and networking. Our Munch & Learn is a fun learning experience where guests can decorate a DIY reusable linen napkin. Hear from presenters Jamie Gauthier, Conrad Benner, Jared Cannon and Rob Fleming along with inspiring nominees. Guests often come for the celebration and leave inspired.

Your outlet has been around for quite some time, but for some people who may not know about Green Philly and SustainPHL, what would you say is its mission? 

Green Philly is an organization that makes sustainability easy, accessible and relevant through our website, events like panel discussions, flash talks, tours, volunteer events and our podcast, titled City Rising. SustainPHL is the largest and liveliest celebration that embodies what we do — inspiring people to change their habits — and celebrates the people literally doing it in Philly.

Finally, what are some simple steps Philly residents can take to become more mindful and ultimately sustainable?

Say no to single-use items, especially plastic straws, cutlery, bags and packaging. Bike or walk instead of driving. Turn off the electricity, lights or your car when you’re not using it. But really, it’s as simple as picking up a piece of trash and throwing it away. Our trash ends up in our waterways and food supply. And if you can spare the time, go volunteer with a local cleanup or organization.


Woman and young boy planting plants
From individuals to organizations, the annual SustainPHL awards ceremony will highlight the Philadelphians doing their part for a more sustainable city. Tickets are still available via | Image courtesy: Philadelphia Parks and Rec


This year’s SustainPHL awards feature 29 nominees across nine categories. The event, which highlights the change-makers, do-gooders and Earth activists across the Greater Philadelphia Region, will take place at WHYY studios on Aug. 8. For tickets visit,

Activist of the Year

  • Arnett Woodall
  • Amanda Lapham
  • Eurhi Jones

Sustainable Communities

  • Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild
  • PHS Tree Tenders
  • One Art Community Center

Impact Business Leader

  • Mt. Airy Nexus
  • Infrastructure Solution Services
  • Remark Glass

Business Innovation

  • Simply Good Jars
  • Dropps
  • Wearwell

Social Impact

  • Tiffany Yau, FulPhil
  • Blew Kind, Franny Lou’s Porch
  • Anna Welsh, Little Bags, Big Impact

Climate Hero

  • Sophie Sarkar (OOS)
  • Climate and Healthy Homes
  • Joanne Douglas
  • Amy Kate Failing

Neighborhood Champ

  • Kyle Shenandoah
  • Heidi Grunwald
  • Vivian Vanstory


  • Ash Richards, City of Philadelphia
  • Megha Kulshreshtha, Food Connect
  • The Rodale Institute

Sustainability Mentor

  • Alisa Shargorodsky
  • Ken Hamilton
  • Daniel Lawson
  • The Urban Creators
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