musings of a gujarati-american gal

enjoying a zero-waste low-carbon voluntarily simple life in the philadelphia suburbs


In 2000, Meenal stepped away from full-time employment as a software systems analyst to explore the world of voluntary simplicity. She has since co-founded MAGNet, the Mt Airy Greening Net, as well as the more widely recognized PhillyFreecycle, a free online materials exchange which has served over 15,000 households with no paid staff, no warehouse and no inventory, just a dozen or so dedicated volunteers. As a key organizer of the April 2007 Step it Up Philly rally demanding 80% carbon reduction by 2050, Meenal is proud to have reduced her own household’s carbon emissions by over 60% within 2 years, down to 3.1 metric ton per person.

As bookkeeper for Farm to City and Common Market Philadelphia, Meenal has helped transform the local food movement into viable businesses at the retail level as well as wholesale. Meenal’s volunteer activities have included participation on the Environment Committee of Weavers Way Food Co-op. She has also served on the Steering Committee of the Recycle Now, Philly! citizens campaign to demand improved recycling in Philadelphia, which has brought single-stream incentive-based weekly recycling through-out Philadelphia. With other MAGNet members, she developed the Eco-Buy project at Weavers Way, auditing products based on indicators other than price, such as health, packaging, transportation and social justice.

While simplifying her life, Meenal observed that reduced material consumption led to reduced waste generation.  In 2001, she began composting on her balcony which resulted in 86% waste diversion, of which 48% was composted. In 2009, she helped get Philly Compost off the ground, offering regular pickup of compostables from area restaurants & caterers. Her map documenting compost sites in the region has been instrumental to residents sharing their private backyards and making composting a hot topic. Also in 2009, Meenal discovered the joy of bicycles when she met her first electric bike and co-founded Philly Electric Wheels, offering the region’s largest selection of electric bikes and becoming a cycling advocate.

In terms of climate change, Meenal was instrumental in developing the Form CO2-EZ, a kitchen table carbon calculator in 2006; a key organizer of StepItUpPhilly in 2007; started (and ended) a residential energy consulting biz in 2008. In 2010, she stepped up to get Transition Cheltenham listed as an official Transition Town, created their initial Green Pages of Locally-Owned Businesses.  In Oct 2011, she shifted her focus to Transition Philadelphia to connect the Occupy & Transition Town movements.

In 2012, the Green Pages concept was broadened to cover Greater Philadelphia, and became the Philly Eco Guide. The same year, she was active with Occupy Philly’s Occupy Vacant Lots working group; chief peddler for the Pedal Co-op, a bicycle-based hauling company and on the core team of Time 4 Time Exchange, a TimeBank for NW Philadelphia.

Since 2015, she’s been promoting clean renewable energy for a transformed economy, around the Philadelphia Mayoral election, and the Southport development, and began working with 350 Philly and others. A lot of her writing can be found on the 350 Philly site.

In 2016, Meenal stepped up to help form the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op with a two pronged goal: to encourage residential solar installations and to build a clean energy advocacy group. She has also worked with Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light to organize climate advocacy efforts, whilst planting trees with the East Mt Airy Tree Tenders.

In 2017, Meenal learned of the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, and invited friends to the initial gathering in Montgomery County. To this day, she remains a catalyst for the Montco’s Ready for 100 team as well as the Philly’s Ready for 100 team and leads to  Solarize Southeast PA.

In 2018 and 2019, Meenal led the effort against PGW’s proposed LNG project, as well as the No Single-Use Plastics work with the Southeastern PA Group of the Sierra Club. She even got on an airplane (ugh, the emissions) for a Climate Reality training with Mr Al Gore. After an interview about climate on PhillyCAM‘s People Power Lunch Hour, a new outlet was formed: Philly Talks Climate – a weekly radio show and podcast about the climate crisis and how it affects Philadelphia. She testifies regularly on climate at Philadelphia City Council sessions.

In short:  Meenal wants to build the local economy and promote community-based solutions to make our region resilient to climate change, with a geographic focus on Philadelphia & surrounding counties, whilst embracing a zero-waste low-carbon lifestyle in Mt Airy, zip 19119. Reach her @meenal19119 and @meenal19119.

last updated: 3 Dec 2019

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