IGRADUATED from college in May and moved back permanently to Philadelphia about a month ago.

I was excited because I thought I'd be able to start using environmentally-friendly amenities like public transit and recycling.

Instead, I was frustrated to find that the Philadelphia is lagging far behind other cities in organizing and funding programs that benefit the environment.

However, I was delighted to find that many of Philadelphia's citizens are taking action together, without waiting for the politicians to act, to make our city a greener place to live.

Like many people in my generation, I care about the environment and want to do my part to help. Young people aren't alone, though - especially in Philadelphia. In the past month of living here, I've discovered all kinds of citizen efforts to make up for where government is failing to do the job.

Everyone knows that public transit in Philadelphia is in bad shape. Transit that fails to attract riders or serve their needs means more cars.

But an organization called PhillyCarShare has taken 7,000 cars off the streets and provided an affordable alternative to car ownership by offering short-term and convenient rentals so that people can decide that they don't actually need to own a car. It's a very cool combination of the economically sensible and environmentally-friendly.

Another problem area is recycling. Philadelphia currently does not have citywide curbside recycling. However, my neighborhood association sponsors a monthly recycle day that allows residents to bring their cans, bottles and newspapers to a central location to be recycled. People are organizing to make things happen.

Of course, I'm not concerned only about the environment. I'm also concerned about affording my rent, my car payment and food. That's why I particularly like an organization called Philly Freecycle.

It's basically a giant e-mail list that allows people to give stuff away that would have otherwise gotten thrown out. And it really is as awesome as it sounds.

Both PhillyCarShare and Freecycle are special because they give people financial incentive to behave with environmental responsibility.

I'm delighted to see that so many people in my city are creating organizations that make going green affordable. Here is another reason that Philadelphia is better than New York City - people on the Upper West Side probably buy trees for the melting ice caps or something.

THESE KINDS of programs are inspiring. It's extremely motivating to see so many people working together to solve a common problem. The kind of energy has got to be positive for Philadelphia. However, it's not the long-term solution.

The real solution is for government to taken action - neighbors working together can only accomplish so much. They need support from their elected officials.

The city of Philadelphia needs to revamp its entire approach to the environment. Ultimately, I think it would be great to have an entire department, with serious resources and clout, to focus on making Philadelphia more environmentally sustainable.

Of course, there is always more we can all do personally. I own a car (for the first time in 22 years!) and probably use the air conditioner more than I should.

But I'd like to try to do the right thing and local government should be making it easier for me. But it also speaks well of the city that so many people are taking matters into their own hands. *

Ben Waxman is a regular contributor. You can find links to the organizations in this piece by visiting benwaxman.com. E-mail: benwaxman@gmail.com.