On May 16th, over 40 Circular Philadelphia Members met at The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park for the spring members meeting to reflect on the past six months and chart the course for what the organization wants to accomplish through the summer and fall of 2023.
Circular Philadelphia members meetings create an effective and exciting cycle that helps us propel the organization by taking a moment to convene the membership and do this reflection. But they’re also meant to be a fun way for members to get together in person, share some good drinks and delicious food and do activities that they normally don’t do. And this meeting did not disappoint.
Thanks to our sponsor Vicinity Energy, we were able to enjoy a fully stocked bar of local beers and wine as well as pizza from Luigi’s in Fairmount (which is a great find if you’re ever in that neighborhood). But what was really unique was being at The Discovery Center and getting to take in the beautiful landscape of the reservoir, native plants and the birdsong in the trees. (And thanks to Robin and staff for being great hosts!) When we opened up the meeting and asked who had never been to The Discovery Center, almost all of the hands went up.
Like all members meetings, after the drinks were had and some laughs were shared, we convened everyone to get down to business. Circular Philadelphia Director of Operations and Programs Samantha Wittchen started on a note of pride as she took members back to the fall 2022 meeting where members took part in an ensemble storytelling exercise to imagine a narrative of where Circular Philadelphia will be in five years. She then unveiled the finished product, The 5-Year Story of Circular Philadelphia: A Strategic Vision, which was the culmination of a collaborative writing session by the Circular Philadelphia Board of Directors.
Speaking of the Board, Wittchen also welcomed our new board members, Aminata Calhoun, Jessica Hartley, Lauren Shifman and Dennis Wilson. She then turned it over to Director of Policy and Engagement Nic Esposito to give an update on our membership numbers, highlighting the almost 85% renewal rate we have among organizational members as well as our growing membership. And then Esposito went into our policy work with the big announcement of the release of Circular Philadelphia’s Single-Use Plastic Legislation for Philadelphia: A Policy Guide. This was the culmination of almost a dozen members coming together to create a guide that makes a strong case for the why and how to reduce single-use plastic in Philadelphia.
Esposito then highlighted two more policy papers that are also nearing completion regarding a construction and demolition recycling ordinance and expanding access for haulers to recycle construction and demolition material. Wittchen then gave an update on the research strategies of the textiles working group. And then Wittchen and Esposito enthusiastically invited Melvin Powell to the stage with the announcement that he is now serving as the Chair of the Vacant Land Working Group. Like the other working groups, Powell’s group is also nearing completion of a policy paper on short term activations of vacant land for community and circular business use.
After Esposito and Wittchen wrapped up the presentation, as is customary in Circular Philadelphia members meetings, they turned the attention to the membership and asked, “What do you want to see us do in the next 6 months?” Overwhelmingly, the answer was that we need to work on more education and outreach.
This makes sense after such a policy-heavy presentation that we would continue to the second pillar of Circular Philadelphia’s theory of change. Now that we have such policy momentum, how do we make sure all of Philadelphia knows about it? This was à propos since, during the meeting, votes were being tallied for what will presumably be the next mayoral administration and city council. Wittchen made a point to show the membership the impact Circular Philadelphia had on the mayor’s race through our participation in the Waste Free Philly Agenda.
But our members recognize that it can’t just be interaction with politicians, as important as that is. Some main areas of focus were continuing the Circular Scavenger Hunt to engage legacy circular businesses in the city. Our members wanted Circular Philadelphia to not only map those businesses on our site, but also to increase the mapping and resource guides for all facets of circularity in Philly.
Our members also wanted us to ensure that we are not just engaging legislators to review our policies, but also businesses and consumers that these policies will affect. And the session ended with a very expansive and thoughtful conversation on how Circular Philadelphia can use all of its means, resources and momentums to catalyze a cultural shift toward circularity in everyday life in Philly.
Needless to say, these are tall tasks, but with such an engaged membership, supportive board and growing revenue that bolsters more staffing, we feel that we’re up to the challenge. And we can’t wait to see what the next six months will bring. We’ll be back in the fall with an update!
Want to see more photos? Check out all of the photos from the members meeting over on Facebook.