Social Development & Urban Sustainability

“The Greenest City in America”

Mayor Michael A. Nutter on his vision for Philadelphia


  • In 2008 Mayor Michael Nutter pledged to make Philadelphia the greenest city in America.
  • As a result, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability was created and Greenworks Philadelphia was drafted.
  • The commitment included fifteen sustainability targets in the areas of energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement, with the goal of making Philadelphia the greenest city in America by 2015.

Increasing Tree Canopy

There is a well established relationship between large amounts of tree canopy and reduced crime rates.

“A 10% increase in tree canopy [can be] associated with a roughly 12% decrease in crime."

Excerpt from Journal of Landscape and Urban Planning, 2012

By cross referencing areas of high crime density with areas that lack heavy tree canopy (approximately one million data points), we generated a tool to recommend locations (the red areas) for which the placement of new trees would be most beneficial to the city.

Encouraging Sustainable Transportation

Using the same process as above, we crossed the location of bike routes with the location of bike racks to recommend the most valuable locations for new bike racks.

An illustration of bike routes throughout the city.

The locations of Philadelphia bike racks.

New Green Spaces

During heavy rain storms, the stormwater management system is unable to process all of the stormwater runoff. As a result, contaminated water enters our water supply, and has detrimental effects on water quality.

Information from Philadelphia Water Department

There is a well established relationship between residence proximity to a park and property values. Thus by using a similar process as above, we can recommend the most beneficial locations to develop new parks. These parks will both increase nearby property values as well as help Philadelphia with its stormwater issue by transforming impervious surfaces such as parking lots into pervious surfaces.

Learn more about Philadelphia's plan to improve stormwater management.