Case Study Source: The Joint U.S.-Brazil Initiative on Urban Sustainability, part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


In Mayor Michael Nutter's January 2008 inaugural address, he pledged to make Philadelphia the number one green city in America. To make good on his pledge, he created the Mayor's Office of Sustainability early in his first term as mayor. The Mayor's Office of Sustainability spent a year researching municipal sustainability, talking with residents, and drafting Greenworks Philadelphia, the City's comprehensive sustainability plan. Greenworks was released in 2009 and is in its fourth year of implementation.

The ambitious plan set 15 sustainability targets in the areas of energy, environment, equity, economy, and engagement. For each, an overarching goal was conceived, with measurable targets then called out and over 150 specific initiatives designed and described to help Philadelphia reach its targets by 2015. In 2011, it was reported that 89 percent of the initiatives were already complete or underway.

The City uses a variety of communications tools to promote Philadelphia's experiences and successes and publishes a comprehensive annual progress report. Since Greenworks was released, sustainability principles have been successfully integrated into a number of other complementary City plans, including: the updated zoning code; the Philadelphia2035 comprehensive plan; Green 2015: An Action Plan for the First 500 Acres; and "Green City, Clean Waters." Philadelphia's ultimate goal is to integrate sustainability across city government.


Other cities may use Greenworks as a model for their own comprehensive sustainability planning or as a tool for translating policies into achievable targets.

Contact Information

Mayor's Office of Sustainability
Phone: +1 (215) 686-3495
Mail: 1515 Arch Street, 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102


Greenworks was partly modeled after another successful comprehensive sustainability plan, PlanNYC (City of New York). Released in 2007, PlanNYC provides an example of a slightly more mature plan that has been updated and extended over five years of implementation.

Cities in Brazil are adopting comprehensive sustainability plans-the City of Rio de Janeiro, in coordination with the Municipal Olympic Authority and Rio2016, has crafted a plan called "RioSustantavel" that covers waste, transportation, sanitation, water, green spaces, energy efficiency, air quality, and public participation-with a strong focus on climate change mitigation and adaptation.