Recycling in Philadelphia: Extending the Philos of the City to the Earth
By Delaney Schlake (M. Div Middler, Trinity Lutheran Seminary)

After completing his internship in New York City, M.Div senior Dustin Wright returned for his final year at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) with a renewed passion for ecology. Dustin, who originally hails from Connecticut, served his internship between the Lutheran Advocacy Office at the United Nations and St. Peter’s Church. As he returned to the seminary for his final step in theological education, Dustin hoped to re-ignite the excitement around questions of eco-justice on campus and in the city.

Dustin began work with LTSP’s “Green Team” as a first year student and has remained passionately involved ever since ( This year, Returning to the Mt. Airy neighborhood, Dustin has spent much of this school year working to rekindle the seminary community’s excitement for and involvement in the Green Team. With the reality of student turnover in seminary communities (mostly attributed to the year off-campus for the M.Div internship), it has been a challenge for the Green Team to make sustainable changes. This year, however, that pattern seems to have shifted.

Following a process that sought the ecological resources of the Philadelphia community, Dustin and the Green Team discerned that recycling would be a faithful way to engage their setting and respond to what the Holy Spirit was calling them to do in caring for creation. Dustin expressed that trying to use geothermal energy or solar panels would be a challenge in an urban area, so the LTSP Green Team decided to engage the City of Philadelphia’s resources and pursue recycling.

In their search, Dustin and the Green Team learned that Philadelphia is home to “Recycle Now Philadelphia” (, an organization committed to educating residents of Philadelphia about the convenient options for recycling in the city. The city utilizes “single stream” recycling, meaning most recyclable items need not be sorted before being placed in the recycling bin; there are only two bins--trash and recycling. In response to the ecological resources of the city of Philadelphia, LTSP has embarked on a mission to increase the visibility and usage of recycling bins, while simultaneously working to educate the seminary community on recycling practices. Wright and the Green Team began the process of recycling education with flyers outlining permissible items for recycling in the classroom buildings and working to obtain more recycling bins from the City of Philadelphia. 

Dustin Wright’s enthusiasm is contagious when he talks about ecology, and his involvement with the Green Team has already produced good fruit this school year. In addition to the Green Team’s recycling initiative, the team has also restarted a dormant program through which “hard to recycle” items (batteries, printer cartridges, shopping bags, etc.) may be collected on campus and recycled. The team provided drying racks for laundry rooms on campus and borrowable bikes in the dormitory basement.  The Green Team has offered several activities in the natural world as well. Wright talks about looking forward to the end of the school year, brainstorming ideas for a green move-out.

As the school year progresses, members of the Green Team in the "City of Brotherly Love" (Philadelphia = philos "loving" + adelphos "brother") are looking to expand their horizons, engaging questions of climate change and care of creation, while joyfully moving into those places where they feel the Holy Spirit moving in the LTSP community, beginning with a commitment to recycling at the Seminary.

City of Philadelphia recycling bin

"Hard to Recycle" items collection center

LTSP Green Team hike