Mt. Airy Nexus, a coworking space, brings a variety of businesses together with a shared value of sustainability. Founded by Max Zahniser and located in a building developed by Scott Seibert, Mt. Airy Nexus is the “sister” to Center City’s CityCoHo. According to Zahniser, “We view coworking as an instrument to bring change makers together and maximize the value of sustainability strategies, all while supporting them in a harm-free environment.”
Mt. Airy Nexus is only a few short blocks from the Carpenter Lane regional rail stop, right down the street from Weavers Way Co-op, and nestled inside the Bancroft Green condominium building. When planning the site, Seibert and Zahniser saw an opportunity to transform an underutilized space into an active and productive coworking space. The colorful environment features sustainably-sourced materials and reflects Mt. Airy’s vibrant culture of community connections.
There are currently about 50 members - businesses of all shapes and sizes - that come and go throughout the week. Members can work in private offices, open spaces and conference rooms, all stylishly furnished and decorated in-line with the sustainable theme. Motivational quotes and the works of local artists are displayed throughout the space.
When it comes to promoting sustainability, Mt. Airy Nexus truly practices what they preach. The start-up was ranked as a top green business by the Chestnut Hill Business Association’s Green Business on the Hill program.
It’s more than just recycling and turning the lights off. Nexus’s manager, John Autin, ensures that they minimize their environmental impact in almost everything they do. In an interview with Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants, Autin shared details on the space’s green practices from waste to wellness.
According to the EPA, the average American generates 4.4 pounds of waste every day, which adds up to 1606 pounds per person per year!1 Here are some of the ways Mt. Airy Nexus works to reduce the amount of waste they produce each day:
Reuse - In the cozy community kitchen space, there are reusable dishware, utensils, and coffee mugs available for anyone to use. Members can avoid disposable food packaging and borrow a tupperware or two. In the bathrooms are Darman cloth roll towel cabinets. These products eliminate paper towel waste and hand dryer energy use by dispensing 40-yards of clean cloth that get regularly washed and used again.
Compost - Mt. Airy Nexus, along with the entire apartment building it is housed in, works to turn food waste into plant food. Together they fill several 5-gallon buckets with organic waste and then at the end of each week Bennett Compost picks them up to be composted. Autin reports that through this practice, Nexus alone diverts about 10 pounds of waste from landfills each week.
Recycle - Aside from the basic paper, plastic, metals, and glass accepted by Philadelphia Streets Department, members can also bring in plastic bags, batteries, printer ink/toner cartridges, and more to be taken where they are properly recycled.
Green Office Environment
Extra thought and care went into the creation of Mt. Airy Nexus and the same mindset is maintained as things continue to be brought in to the space. The building itself is striving to attain a LEED-platinum certification! Environmental and social sustainability are primary factors in consumer purchasing practices for this coworking hub. The motto when making purchases is “Can we get it local, can we get it used, and can it be reused, rehabbed, or recycled?”
Here are examples of Mt. Airy Nexus’ commitment to the environment:
All paint has low or no volatile organic compounds, including whiteboard paint
Conference room sound panels are 100% recycled, with 1/40th the embodied energy of typical sound panels
Tables are made of repurposed beams from the demolished building that previously occupied the site.
Chairs can be individually broken down and each part can be replaced/recycled
No flooring uses adhesive and some floors are made from recyclable carpet tiles
Adhesive is also avoided as much as possible- they look to buy adhesive-free furniture and hang wall items and installations with screws or nails
All technology and appliances are ENERGY STAR® efficient
All printer paper is 100% recycled
Bags used for trash and compost are 100% compostable
Bathroom tissue and paper towels are unbleached and 100% recycled
Bathroom and cleaning products are plant-based and free of harsh chemicals (they love Mrs. Meyer’s!)
Low waste, organic, ethical and local products are sourced whenever possible
Products that need to be shipped are ordered in bulk when possible, Autin even works with cooperating suppliers to eliminate excess packaging waste like tape and packing styrofoam
Ethically sourced and locally roasted coffee from High Point is kept brewing in the kitchen throughout the day
Creamers and non-dairy milk products are sourced locally, often from Weavers Way right down the street
The coworking environment works hard to promote community wellbeing and inclusivity. The space is ADA accessible and they fitted a small room meant for private phone calls to additionally serve as a breast-pumping and nursing station. There is even exercise equipment for those looking to work off a little extra stress. Out of respect for the neighborhood and the environment, members are encouraged to take public transportation and avoid occupying resident parking-spots. Covered bike racks are available outside and there are facilities for commuters to shower after their trek to the office.
Autin remarks how proud he is that Nexus and the Mt. Airy community have come together to create a positive, co-existing atmosphere. He says, “There’s a certain friendly, positive vibe that invites people to share and connect with other members at the level they feel comfortable.” Striving to enhance relationships not only between members, but also with the surrounding neighborhood is a key part of the coworking environment. Mt. Airy Nexus serves as a community gathering space, hosting public events each month such as yoga classes, free plays and storytelling slams. Local non-profits such as Weaver’s Way and Mt. Airy Learning Tree hold educational workshops in the space. They also collaborate with mission-aligned organizations such as Sisters in Film & Television, with whom they host film night fundraisers to support black women in the cinema and film industry.
Mt. Airy Nexus has only been open for a short period of time, yet they have already grown and changed substantially. Whether it’s through member feedback or outside learning, they are always looking to improve their practices and discover new ways to be sustainable. Whether it’s starting a compost bucket or rethinking which cleaning products to use, businesses and households alike can learn a valuable lesson about social and environmental awareness. Keeping the environment in mind and the community at heart, Mt. Airy Nexus sets an excellent example of the attitude we should all adopt to connect with the world around us and work toward a healthier future.
For more information about membership and events at Mt. Airy Nexus visit mtairynex.us or reach out to John Autin at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lauren Hammett
By Lauren Hammett, Temple University senior, Environmental Studies major; intern at Boyer Sudduth Environmental Consultants.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Municipal Solid Waste." EPA. N.p., 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 22 May 2019.