City Council Testimony Delivered on 3/2/2016
Good afternoon, my name is Morgan Berman and I am the CEO of MilkCrate, a locally based tech company dedicated to making more sustainable communities.
My sustainability journey has in some ways spanned my whole life. Before I was even born my mother was a chef and part of the farm to table movement here in Philadelphia led by the great Judy Wicks, the woman who started the Sustainable Business Network and Fair Food. My mom then went on to create a written guide to thrift shopping in the Delaware Valley. These values were imbedded in me at an early age, yet the word ‘sustainable’ never left my lips until a few years ago.
My sustainability awakening began when I moved to West Philadelphia just off of Baltimore Ave at 48th and Pine. Over those two years I grew from a casual reader of grid magazine to the founder of a tiny but earnest community garden, joined Mariposa Food Co-op, learned to ride a bike in the city (in a skirt!), and even experimented with vermiculture in my kitchen.
I knew I had stumbled upon something special and it wasn’t long before I had enrolled full time in a master's program at Philadelphia University to study Sustainable Design. It was there that I learned about our city’s Greenworks Program and how far the city had come in sustainable practices. But I could also see first hand that there was much left to be done- all those individual choices I had been making for myself at home about living more sustainable were not necessarily the norm in the spaces I was visiting, either at school, work or at government offices. The individual consumer values that were driving me and others in the sustainability community had not been normalized enough to be easily tracked and reported. So I decided for my master’s thesis to design a tool that does just that. This was the beginning of MilkCrate.
Through the help of leaders in the sustainable business community like Jamie Gauthier, Ann Karlan and of course Judy Wicks, my early grad school project has become the largest and most accurate source of easily accessible sustainable choices in the city. By aggregating the databases of Fair Food, SBN, PACA, The Energy Co-op, B Corp, The Humane League, Fair Trade and others- we are proud to boast a ‘Green Yelp’ like tool that has over 1800 local and sustainable businesses in the Philadelphia area. I’m here today to offer our database and our technology to support the City in identifying and tracking these local sustainable businesses as part of an official sustainable procurement practice.
Through our free app, My MilkCrate, tens of thousands of Philadelphians have learned about how to switch to renewable energy, find a bike shop, or sign up for a CSA. These choices funnel more money into the local tax base, reduce carbon emissions, and strengthen our urban fabric.
When the City commits to making a similar lifestyle change, it will pave the way for hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians to follow that example.
I recently shared with a reporter when discussing the city’s opportunities that I think a lot of us feel hopeless about some of things that we cannot control, like gun violence or poverty. There’s this sense of 'I can’t do anything in my daily life to change it. But when it comes to the local economy, sustainability, pollution and urban life, that’s something that we can all take direct actions in everyday. As important as large scale changes like our transit system or energy reporting are, the every day choices we make establish our values and have the power to shift the needle. This is why we want to empower people to act on that sense of hope and optimism to make the kind of changes we need.
Thank you for including me today. It has been truly exhilarating to come of age while my own city experiences a rebirth in sustainable design thinking and practice.
To read the proposal by the City Council’s Committee on the Environment click here.