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Sustainability : Civic Impact

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Neighborhood Allies awards $478,000 to transformation projects

Trade-skills training in Wilkinsburg and Homewood. A mobile market that delivers healthy and affordable food to food desert areas. Community leadership training in Pittsburgh's Hilltop neighborhoods.

These creative, innovative and collaborative projects and ideas are just a sampling of the investments totaling $478,000 recently announced by Neighborhood Allies. Funded through Neighborhood Allies’ Catalytic Awards, the programs aim to help transform struggling neighborhoods into more sustainable, healthier, safer and stronger communities.
 
Funds raised from local foundations, banks and some governmental organizations support the Catalytic Awards, according to Talia Piazza, Neighborhood Allies program manager for community resources and communications.
 
Neighborhood Allies, whose predecessor organization was the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, launched in 2013 with the purpose of including 21st-century community development initiatives. As the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, the organization awarded catalytic grants about four times a year. But, Piazza said, this is the organization’s first group of awards as Neighborhood Allies.

A total of seven awards have been made in the fall 2014 round, representing a new approach to investing in neighborhoods that support innovative, resident-driven development and revitalization strategies.
 
“These financial investments, coupled with intensive support from our talented staff and dedicated partners, will provide the needed resources to produce positive social impact and improve neighborhoods so that all residents are able to enjoy a better quality of life,” said Neighborhood Allies President Presley Gillespie.
 
Six priority communities across the City of Pittsburgh and neighboring suburbs received awards. Projects will address local issues and opportunities ranging from neighborhood leadership, wealth building, access to healthy foods, blight removal, workforce development and job placement initiatives.
 
The fall 2014 Catalytic grantees really do run the gamut.
 
Larimer Consensus Group was awarded $68,000 to hire the organization’s first staff person to coordinate resident representation and action-oriented participation in the revitalization and development of the neighborhood. Millvale Community Library received $75,000 to hire staff to guide development projects that improve community health through the EcoDistrict Sustainability Plan.
 
The Catalytic Grant provided $75,000 to Farm Truck Foods, which will pilot a mobile market program and food truck that provides universal access to whole, nutritious, affordable and local foods to residents living in food deserts or in communities with poor access to healthy food.
 
Community Workz, Inc. received $65,000 and strives to build capacity and strengthen the leadership at community organizations in Beltzhoover, Allentown and Knoxville.
 
Center that CARES was awarded $60,000 to launch Tech Central at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center in the Hill District. Tech Central bridges the digital divide to 21st-century technology and connects the most vulnerable students to resources within the region and beyond.

Trade Institute of Pittsburgh received $75,000 to expand its facility and programming to address chronic unemployment in Wilkinsburg and Homewood and to reach individuals who have spent time in prison, juvenile centers or rehab facilities. The program offers comprehensive, stable and effective trade-skill and life-skill training. The training aims to make students employable and offers a chance to increase earning potential and to obtain a job outside of the minimum wage job market.

CARE Ownership was awarded $60,000 to implement a wealth-building program that trains and empowers current Larimer residents to become owner-occupants of multi-unit, formerly blighted properties.
 
“This [program] is truly catalytic,” Piazza said about the landlord training program. “It’s really creating opportunities for real residents [to contribute] to the revitalization of their neighborhood.”
 
CARE Ownership uses existing properties and trains residents how to manage, operate and own neighborhood real estate, Piazza said, adding that the program creates change with a fast turnaround, removing blight and creating a residence while teaching real-life skills.

For more details on the fall 2014 awardees and their projects, visit www.neigborhoodallies.com. Neighborhood Allies plans to hold another Catalytic Grant funding round in early 2015.
 
 
Source: Talia Piazza, Neighborhood Allies

Vintage school bus turned fermentation lab rolls into town

Fermentation on Wheels will be rolling into Pittsburgh this month with a variety of free workshops to bridge communities and restore a genuine fascination and interest in local, traditionally preserved foods.

Fermentation on Wheels is a creative education and food-preservation project founded in Oregon by culinary artist Tara Whitsitt who converted a 1986 International Harvester school bus into a fermentation lab and workshop space in the summer of 2013. In October that year, she hit the road and has since made more than 100 stops in 23 states and traveled more than 7,000 miles in her bus.

While in Pittsburgh, Whitsitt will be incorporating regional produce that she acquires from local farms and farmer’s markets into her fermentation workshops being held Aug.15 through Aug. 23.

“Each workshop presents something new and surprising as farms are growing different vegetable varieties,” says Whitsitt. “The produce available at the farm or farmer’s market I visit will determine what I bring to each workshop. Given that it’s summer, I might ferment cucumbers or zucchini, but honestly it’s going to be what inspires or excites me in the moment.”

Whitsitt’s first event will be at Chatham University where she’ll hold a community potluck and culture share. on Aug. 15 from 4PM to 7PM

For the culture share, attendees are encouraged to bring starter cultures of their own for exchange and discussion as well as bring an empty jar to take a culture home. Cultures are a key component to the fermentation process and are used to help inhibit the growth of undesirable microorganisms and promote the growth of desired bacteria.

The potluck at Chatham will feature a fermented-food theme and a 30- to 45-minute talk about fermentation.

“The potluck is open to all who are interested in fermentation and my project,” she says. “It’s meant to bridge the community of fermenters—beginners and experts alike—so that they can teach and learn from one another. It’s an exercise in community building and attendees are encouraged to bring all types of foods, fermented or non-fermented. “

An additional vegetable fermentation workshop for adults is in the works at Wigle Whiskey on Aug. 23.

Whitsitt will also be hosting educational workshops for children and youth while she's in town. She’ll be participating in Children Museum of Pittsburgh’s “Pickle Day” on Aug. 16 from 11AM to 3PM and will also hold a fermentation workshop for ages 10 and older at the museum on Aug. 20 from 5PM to 6:30PM.

“It’s important to educate our youth about food since they will be managing and participating in our future food system,” she says. “This system plays a huge role in our environmental impact, which will ultimately decide how long we can happily live here on Earth. It’s so important that we learn to consume food and other resources more thoughtfully.”

With all of her workshops, Whitsitt hopes participants walk away with a better understanding of our food system and the confidence to begin fermenting in their own home kitchens.

“I hope participants leave with a sense of being able to comfortably and fearlessly ferment in their own kitchens and that they’ll think twice about the foods they consume,” she says. “I also want participants to gain a new perspective on bacteria and its importance to our eco-system and how we tie into the greater world of living things. My project is a way to display a sustainable and simple lifestyle that encourages people to use energy more efficiently and intentionally.”

For more information and the full workshop schedule visit www.fermentationonwheels.com

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse holds pay-what-you-can fundraiser

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) is hosting a pay-what-you-wish fundraiser on Aug. 21, from 6PM to 9PM at the Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden in the Northside.  

The goal of all PCCR efforts is to reduce consumption and re-imagine waste as something to be harvested and repurposed to help the community. This is achieved through the sale of secondhand creative supplies at the PCCR store in the East End and through a variety of creative programming and workshops.

The organization relies heavily on the generosity of others and funds earned through sales and shop services at its retail store in order to survive and continue to serve the creative community. Recently, PCCR has found that interest in the organization’s work is growing faster than their ability to grow staff and facilities.The Barrelhouse fundraiser will help support this growth and help PCCR develop a more sustainable operation.  

“We are a resource center for creative people that needs our community to support us, not only by donating stuff and shopping, but also by contributing financially and by volunteering,” says Erika Johnson, Executive Director for PCCR. “We need a little bit of ‘venture capital’ to help us grow from the scrappy labor of love we’ve always been to a larger, sustainable operation. One of our big fundraising priorities right now is to save up money to replace the 21-year-old van we rely on to travel to programs and collect materials.”

Entry to the fundraiser will be a pay-what-you-can model that allows attendees to contribute what their finances allow. Johnson says this entry model was important because it allows all kinds of people to connect, create and support the PCCR.

“We care a lot about creating spaces where everyone feels welcome,” says Johnson. “A pay-what-you-can fundraiser allows everyone to participate and contribute. The creative reuse community includes a lot of artists and teachers who want to support us, but might not be able to attend a traditional fundraiser.”

The event will feature craft cocktails and food provided by Bar Marco, East End Food Co-op and Bistro to Go. Food trucks are also expected, including The Pop Stop and others. PCCR will also be organizing a non-traditional raffle of curious finds from the PCCR shop.

The Lone Pine String Band will be providing entertainment throughout the evening and the PCCR will have a build-your-own-party-hat station and a photo booth.

Guests who purchase their tickets online before Aug. 21, will receive a discount code from Uber to use for transportation to and from the event.

For ticketing, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/e/wigle-whiskey-bantam-night-benefiting-creative-reuse-tickets-12081045733
 
 

Urban Chicken Coop Tour shows the fun side of urban chicken farming

Chickens and urban living aren’t typically two terms that go hand-in-hand, but this year’s 4th annual Chicks-in-the-Hood Pittsburgh Urban Chicken Coop Tour proves that you can have a taste of country living right in your own city backyard.

The tour, on Sun., June 8, is organized by Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People and is a one-day, self-guided tour of 15 Pittsburgh residents’ chicken coops in the North Side and East End neighborhoods of the city.  Last year, the tour attracted more than 250 attendees. Tickets are $10 for adults and include a tour booklet, a map with directions to each participating coop on the tour and an official Chicks-in-the-Hood collectible pin. All proceeds will benefit the Animal Rescue League. Last year’s tour raised $2,540 to benefit Just Harvest.

“The tour is meant to promote the joys of backyard chickens,” says Jody Noble-Choder, founder and organizer of the tour. “We are passionate about chickens for many reasons—they bring us closer to the food chain and the circle of life, they provide fresh eggs, create fertilizer for the garden, are voracious insect eaters, and are great pets. They’re funny, affectionate and educational.”

Noble-Choder lives in the old US Army Corps of Engineers Lockmaster’s house at the Highland Park Dam on the Allegheny River. She’s been a chicken farmer for the past five years and currently has 11 chickens with creative names like Buffy the Wormslayer, Attila the Hen, Vera Wing, Hillary Rodham Chicken, and Margaret Hatcher to name a few.  Her chickens free range on the banks of the Allegheny River.

“I was a Martha Stewart devotee,” says Noble-Choder. “Martha had Easter Egger chickens that laid blue green eggs and I wanted some. When my husband and I moved to our home, we created a variety of gardens including an organic potager garden. We’ve also incorporated various sustainable practices into our gardens including rain barrels, composting, and solar panels. Chickens in the garden were a natural fit.”

Noble-Choder says chickens need approximately 2 square feet of coop space and 3 square feet of outdoor space per chicken and that an average size city lot can easily accommodate three to five chickens. They are also relatively easy to care for.

“Chickens require less time for care than my dogs,” she says. “You don't have to walk your chicken every day.  Each morning, I let my chickens out of their coop and into their run. I give them feed and make sure they have water. In the evening, the chickens go into their coop themselves and I lock the coop each night to ensure that they do not fall prey to night time predators such as raccoons. I also gather the eggs each evening. Once a week I clean the coop. A fun summer evening for us is sitting in a lawn chair with a glass of wine and watching the chicken antics.”

Tour attendees will get the chance to meet Noble-Choder’s chickens on the tour as well as learn the ins and outs of owning your own chickens.

“Tour attendees enjoy meeting—many for the first time—chickens and learning how to care for them and the benefits of having backyard chickens,” says Noble-Choder. “Many times, the wife will be dragging her reluctant husband along the tour because she wants chickens and he is resistant. Usually by the end of the tour he is convinced and ready to build a coop.”

Currently, the City of Pittsburgh regulates chickens under the zoning code, requiring a zoning variance for a chicken coop, however, the Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People, Burgh’s Bees and Grow Pittsburgh have been working with City Planning on more chicken/bee friendly regulations.

“The consensus seems to be that chickens are an animal control rather than zoning issue,” says Noble-Choder. “The hope is to change the current regulations from zoning to animal control.”

Noble-Choder also notes that each municipality has different requirements concerning chickens and to check with your municipal zoning officer to understand what your municipality’s specific requirements are if you’re interested in starting your own backyard chicken farm.

Tickets can be purchased the day of the tour at Commonplace Voluto www.commonplacecoffee.com at 5467 Penn Avenue in Friendship/Garfield; Tazza D’Oro  www.tazzadoro.com at 1125 North Highland Avenue in Highland Park; Animal Nature  www.animalnature.net at 7610 Forbes Avenue in Regent Square; Thompson 0.08 Acres at 1240 Resaca Place, Pittsburgh  15212; and Choderwood at 7665 Lock Way West, Pittsburgh 15206, located at the Highland Park Dam at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Allegheny River Boulevard. 

'Eye-popping insights' show the value of sustainability

Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, could not be happier with the way the Dec. 10 “Sustainability EXPOsed” event highlighted new ideas for business and the community: "People around the region would be pleased to hear that 500-plus young, emerging leaders and veterans came together to hear one remarkably rapid-paced presentation after another whose focus was on providing up-to-date, eye-popping insights into the ways the practice of sustainability is paving the path to prosperity, public health and access to opportunity at greater levels."
 
Paul Hawken, author of four national bestsellers, including The Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest, told the crowd that "sustainability goes right to the heart of reinvigorating the Pittsburgh region's story of innovating its way around adversity." Pursuing life, liberty and happiness today, Hawkens added, includes having clean air and water and equitable access to opportunity – qualities not particularly encouraged by our winner-take-all way of conducting commerce.
 
"There are more evolved models and we need not look very far," Gould points out  -- look at our natural eco-systems, he says, "where everything is interconnected and nothing is wasted.
 
"This is all about our perception," Gould adds. "We can either view climate change as a daunting challenge for which we can do little or we can view it as an opportunity … for us to shift what we value." For our region, this spells opportunities for doing business by emphasizing the local, the collaborative and the interdependent, all toward maximizing social benefit, "where businesses' values come from their role in improving community."
 
Nature does not negotiate, Hawken concluded, and we fail to appreciate this fact at our own peril.
 
Projjal Dutta, director of sustainability initiatives for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York, spoke on?“Taking the car out of carbon,” addressing how public transport systems in dense cities improve our quality of life and help us move from sprawl to community building, reducing carbon emissions in the meantime.
 
Gould says he was also very impressed with Jerry Tinianow, chief sustainability officer for Denver, who "brought home the message of how sustainability at its core is about behavior and choice," and with Jeanne VanBriesen, Carnegie Mellon University professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of their Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (Water-QUEST) project. He says she "raised awareness to the literal reality that all water use is highly energy-dependent," and that an efficient use of water resources would be a sign of true sustainability for a region or society.
 
The audience was also invited to discuss their best recommendations for our region, led by representatives from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, who, Gould says, will use the discussion to put together their next regional agenda report, due at the end of January.
 
"Our region has the opportunity to seize being the place the world goes to in order to solve hard problems," was the conclusion of Mickey McManus, CEO and principal of MAYA Design, Gould says. "The Pittsburgh region is uniquely positioned to be the leading site for a shift to building an ecosystem for business based on these concepts of mutuality and innovation … The result can be rising to the top of the economic value chain while achieving a transition to a more functional, sustainable natural systems-based economy."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh

2013 BikeFest offers more than 80 rides and events over three weeks

"If you're into anything cycling-related you can find something to ride at BikeFest," says Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh's event coordinator.
 
Indeed, the ninth year of this annual three-week event should feature more than 80 rides, parties and other bike-y things, Carroll says. More than 60 of them are already up on the group's website.
 
This year's full calendar includes the Public Art Bike Ride on Aug. 13. It's a tour of public art in the city, starting at the Langley Observatory clock, sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
 
For more skilled riders there's the Royal Rumball on Aug. 11. This is an alley cat-style bike race, meaning participants won't know the full route, but will cycle through a series of checkpoints, starting at the graden at Highland Park's entrance. And the ride has a professional wrestling theme, and so, Carroll is betting, sites relating to Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle are involved. Also involved: 50 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing.
 
The 20-mile Cycling Through Samsara, which also starts in Highland Park on Aug. 11, opens and closes with yoga sessions. And Try a Bike is back for the third year, allowing riders to test recumbent bikes, tandems, unicycles, electric-assist bikes and high-wheel bikes at the Bud Harris Cycling Oval on Washington Boulevard.
 
Other events include:
  • Church Ride Revised
  • Troubled Streams Tour
  • Pinball Ride!
  • BikeFest Moonlight Ride
  • Trees of Pittsburgh Ride, 2013
  • Bike-in-Movie
  • Hello, Hill District!
  • The Every Pittsburgh Neighborhood Ride
  • 12 Bridges, 3 Rivers, 21 Miles
  • Lost Streams of Four Mile Run
"What's great is to see is the community getting creative to encourage others to explore the city in a safe way – to explore what makes Pittsburgh unique," Carroll says.
 
The event kicks off with a fundraising party at Pittsburgh Opera on Aug. 9 and closes with the 20th annual Pedal Pittsburgh's three rides, for riders of all levels.
 
"Everybody has a different idea of why they love riding a bike," he says. "If we can get them together to get them to share their ideas, that's what BikeFest is really all about."
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh

Green Workplace Challenge: back and greener than ever

Last year's PGH Green Workplace Challenge was such a success in helping local businesses and other organizations reduce their energy and water consumption that it's back and bigger than ever, with new categories for sustainable – and profitable – actions.
 
The 2013-2014 Challenge already has more than 45 places (including nonprofits, municipalities and universities) participating. The year-long contest helps them track and gauge improvements in their greening efforts, and offers a guidebook with bright green ideas, so to speak.
 
"They're all targeted so that the results can be measured, says Matthew Mehalik, program manager for competition sponsor Sustainable Pittsburgh. "It's not just 'Do this so you'll feel good.'"
 
Participants establish an energy-use baseline and earn points for the effects of their actions while helping the environment and saving themselves money in the process. Entrants who sign up by the July 31 deadline will be entered into a drawing to win their choice of an energy audit; a waste, recycling and green procurement assessment from the Pennsylvania Resources Council; a ZipCar credit account; a green energy voucher from Community Energy, supplier of Pennsylvania-generated wind and solar energy; and bicycles for a shared office bike program.
 
This year's contest adds transportation and waste management as new categories for companies to track and improve upon.
 
Last year, Mehalik says, lighting saw the biggest energy and cost savings for entrants, since lights operate 24/7 in most cases, or at least during business hours. Companies were helped by using more efficient lighting or sensors that turned lights on when a space was occupied, which worked particularly well for warehouses and other large areas. The more industrial companies worked on making their equipment operate at peak efficiency.
 
Mehalik recommends that participants take advantage of energy audits: "Businesses that underwent energy audits tended to be the best performing," he says. "The energy audits reveal what their opportunities are …."
 
Overall, he adds, companies would like to see more of their employees engaged in green efforts, so the competition guidebook offers them new ways to do so. The contest, he concludes, "is a way to do more creative things with your business operations that pay off."

Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to green your organization? Connect with Pittsburgh Green Innovators here
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Matthew Mehalik, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Eat well and often at A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh event

Here's your chance to eat well and eat often, at the third annual A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh this Sunday at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts from 2:00 to 5:00.
 
Featured restaurants at the fundraiser include: Avenue B and Habitat, Salt of the Earth, The Porch at Schenley. E2, Abay, Alma, East End Food Co-op, Legume, Square Café, Root 174, Bar Marco, La Prima Espresso, Habitat, Casbah and Whole Foods.
 
While feasting, guests will be entertained by Chet Vincent and the Big Bend while sipping local wine from Engine House 25 Wines and organic & local brews.
 
The dozen local restaurants at the event have utilized organic produce from Grow Pittsburgh’s urban farming efforts, or fundraising events for the group.
 
Grow Pittsburgh is an urban agriculture organization with "a mission to demonstrate, teach and promote responsible urban food production." The group offers programming and education including the development of community food gardens in the region. It is also known for the Edible Schoolyard program they bring to local elementary schools in Pittsburgh.
 
Tickets are $75 for General Admission and $60 for Members of Grow Pittsburgh available through Showclix or call Grow Pittsburgh at (412) 362-4769.
 

Green Cities Corps Sustainability Fellows making mark in local climate, greenhouse gas efforts

The Student Conservation Association’s Green Cities Corps Fellows have been having an impact on the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan and other local environmental efforts since 2008, and Fellows’ projects in 2012 are about to bear fruit.
 
Eighteen Fellows have been working in 16 organizations since February, says Fellowship Program Coordinator Miriam Parson. They work with nonprofits but aim to have an impact on businesses, university campuses and neighborhoods as well.
 
Past Fellows have helped the city’s Climate Action Plan gain new capabilities and aided East Liberty Development, Inc., in designing stormwater management projects, from rain gardens to tree planting.
 
This year, one Fellow is aiding the Green Building Alliance; another is managing the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign with PennFuture; one Fellow is helping Global Links divert unused, surplus health-care materials from the waste stream to Latin American countries and increase its internal sustainability, and a fourth Fellow is helping a consortium of 11 higher-education institutions in Pittsburgh to implement greenhouse gas reductions and sustainability projects.
 
Nearly half of the Fellows – all young professionals out of college, ages 22-30 -- stay in the city and are hired here, says Parson.
 
Over the next few months, local residents will see more evidence of Fellows’ projects, from
Black and Gold City neighborhood blitzes to hand out household sustainability solutions to the finale of the Green Workplace Challenge for local businesses in October, which another Fellow is managing.
 
"We're really feeding into the ongoing green trend in Pittsburgh," says Parson. "We're bringing capacity to Pittsburgh's sustainable future."

Do Good:
Take a look at the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan and get involved with the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Miriam Parson, Student Conservation Association, Pittsburgh

Smart Growth conference is smart business move

“When I see a business doing things that don’t immediately respond to their bottom line, that’s a real clear indication that they get it,” says Brian Jensen, senior vice president for civic policy at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
 
What they get is the idea that “Smart Growth is Smart Business” – the theme of the city’s 11th annual Smart Growth Conference on Dec. 13.
 
The conference features sessions on innovative finance, blight and abandonment, green infrastructure and the indicators of smart growth. Former Clinton cabinet member Henry Cisneros, head of the CityView institutional investment firm, and Robert Lang, a Fellow of the Urban Land Institute, lead a lengthy list of presenters.
 
To be smart about growth, businesses need to realize that even multi-national corporations are still local to someone. “How that [local] community operates is going to affect their labor force, resourcing of materials, tax climate and regulatory climate,” says Jensen, who also heads the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “The geographical climate they work in will affect their operability and ultimately their profitability.”
 
They’ve also got to take the long view – both in planning and in how they operate today. Building green, for instance, “costs money up front. If a business is willing to make that upfront investment, over time their energy costs are going to be reduced.” However, the smartest businesses realize that going green “is largely an effort to try to reduce the amount of wastewater that goes through our sewers. It really is more of a response to larger community needs.”
 
Besides the Allegheny Conference, the other event sponsors are the Green Building Alliance, NAIOP Pittsburgh Chapter, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the Urban Land Institute Pittsburgh District Council.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Brian Jensen, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Black and Gold City is still going green with "Moving Planet" and next neighborhood blitz

A 350-hour bike ride across Indonesia. A "human flood" of people in blue shirts through Cairo. A parade of fuel-free floats through Cape Town. An "Eco-lympic" torch progressing through Rio de Janeiro on foot, skateboard and bicycle.

These are just some of the worldwide activities for Moving Planet day on Sept. 24, created by climate-activist site 350.org, and in which Pittsburgh is being encouraged to participate, thanks to the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign.

Our take? "Anything that gets [Pittsburghers] away from driving to work alone" will do, says Lauryn Stalter of PennFuture, which is promoting the citywide campaign to get people to take relatively easy and cheap actions to reduce greenhouse gas production. "People can change air quality and address climate change all in one day -- just by changing the way they get around," says Statler.

But at least we're trying it before anyone else -- on Sept. 23. And that's only one of the many campaign activities in the next two months alone.

On Sept. 17, the City Goes Green group teamed with Greener Expressions to hold the Lawrenceville Green Business Blitz, a chance for people to see what the neighborhood is doing to go green, from changing windows and upgrading their lighting to buying sustainable products. Participants received a multitude of energy-saving items, including LED nightlights, shower timers, toilet tummies (which save water in the tank), sink aerators and outlet insulators.

Next up is a Neighborhood Blitz of East Allegheny on the North Side on Oct. 9, giving residents a chance to grab eco-friendly lightbulbs, recycling bags and schedules, cancel their junk mail, recycle old fridges, and find out what else they can do to go green.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Lauryn Stalter, Black and Gold City Goes Green

Making it OK to feel green in the hospital: Sustainable Pittsburgh's workshop

Since health-care providers are the biggest employers around -- and since it's never quittin' time at a hospital -- it's sound environmental policy to make their operations as green as possible.

It also makes sense for patients' health, not to mention cost-containment, findings Sustainable Pittsburgh is hoping to promote through their next "Improving Healing Environments: Strategic Environmental Solutions" workshop offered July 21. Representatives of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, UPMC, Global Links, eLoop and elsewhere will address how the industry can apply environmental principles and ideas to its energy use, waste disposal, infection control and cleaning, and operations and facility design.

A survey at Sustainable Pittsburgh's last workshop found that coordinating environmental efforts was the toughest part of the task, followed by the cost and the system-wide resistance to change.

Interest in saving money "opens the door" to going green, says Matthew Mehalik, program manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh and organizer of the five-workshop environmental series, "but this is not the only factor." Green practices can actually improve the quality of patient care and reduce in-hospital errors. It also reduces infections, stress and other negatives.

Pittsburgh is not the leader in this particular aspect of health-care; that's the province of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins and the Cleveland Clinic, Mehalik says. But locally, he adds, "the industry is doing a lot internally that has not often been expressed publicly." That means "getting things in order before making grand public proclamations." He points to the work of UPMC's sustainability coordinator and the construction of its LEED-certified Children's Hospital, in particular. "The efforts have been clearly led by UPMC, and it has been more of a struggle to get other systems on board, but this is changing."

Do Good:

For more details or to register, click here.

Catch video from the first workshop in the series.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Matthew Mehalik, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Come hungry: Toyota Farm-to-Table Tour hits Market Square

Downtowners, we know where you'll be eating lunch tomorrow.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. tomorrow (Aug. 5), the Toyota Farm to Table Tour will be paying a visit to Market Square. More than a half-dozen local chefs will be offering "bite-sized complimentary treats" that they've created using super-fresh ingredients grown by farmers in our region.

The lineup of award-winning local chefs includes Jason Capps of Bella Sera, Keith Fuller of Six Penn Kitchen, Andrew Morrison of Habitat (at the Fairmont), Mark Swomley of The Carlton, Kevin Sousa of Salt of the Earth (who is also catering the BikeFest VIP bash on Friday night), Sonja Finn of Dinette, Andrew Hebson of Sonoma Grille and Bill Fuller of Big Burrito Group.

Toyota's national summer tour stops at farmers markets across the country to showcase the connection between farmers, chefs, farmers' markets and the communities they serve. They also bring along a few of their hybrid cars (expect to see a 2010 Prius, Highlander Hybrid and/or Camry Hybrid) in hopes of intriguing new customers.

There will be live music and visitors can take home complimentary culinary herbs. An "herb specialist" will be on-hand to pot the plants for visitors and answer questions about gardening. All herb plants are sourced from local vendors at the market.

The Market Square Farmers Market is open every Thursday through Nov. 18, offering everything from hot pierogies and fresh flowers to baked goods and more than 50 types of produce. It is run by Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP).

"There is no better way to showcase the best food choices in Pittsburgh than having local chefs partner with local farmers," said Michael Edwards, president and CEO of the PDP, in a statement about the event. "We're truly honored to host the Toyota Farm to Table Tour during our Market Square Farmers Market because it's a chance for the community to experience top quality, local food in Downtown's newly-renovated town square."


Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Kirsten Graham for Toyota Farm to Table Tour
Image posted by thebittenword.com via Flickr


On the water, in the lab: Bayer Sustainability Camp

The annual Bayer Sustainability Camp program kicked off last weekend, giving 15 students from around the globe (including one Pittsburgher) a chance to learn more about the environment and the role they can play in improving it.

When students applied to attend this year's Sustainability Camp, they were asked to write essays about what subjects like sustainability and climate change mean to them, says Rebecca Lucore, executive director of the Bayer USA Foundation, which runs the camp. The goal was to get a sense of how the students approached these issues and also help the students form a vision for what they could gain from the camp.

During their two weeks at Sustainability Camp, the students are working with soil and water samples (see the photo, above, from last year's camp) and will explore Pittsburgh's rivers by canoe and with RiverQuest. And just as they did last year, they will also spend time working alongside scientists at the Bayer campus.

One highlight of this year's program is a visit to Bayer's New "eco-commercial" building. "They'll get to tour the building," Lucore says, "and see a zero-energy building in practice."
 
Just a few days into the camp, one interesting topic has already emerged: Students from Germany were surprised to find that environmental issues, which have been a focus in Europe for decades, have only captured public attention in the U.S more recently. The German students have challenged their American peers on the issue, asking why it's taken Americans longer than Europeans to make the environment a clear priority.

The experiences of these two weeks, including these kinds of challenging conversations, will hopefully send the entire group of students back to their hometowns inspired to continue learning about the environment and discussing it with others.


Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Rebecca Lucore, Bayer USA Foundation
Image courtesy of Bayer USA Foundation

 

Veggies for all! PASA's 4th annual Buy Fresh/Buy Local Farm Tour

The Pittsburgh region has a remarkable abundance of small farms within just a few miles of the city limits. And neighborhoods that don't have farms often host one or more farmers' markets throughout the growing season. But while many Pittsburghers know of one or two nearby farms or markets, we may not realize just how many others are available to us.

The Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative at PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) aims to raise the public profile of local growers and help consumers in our region find growers to buy from and locate restaurants that specialize in locally grown food.

Year-round, you can visit their site to learn more about these offerings. But on July 24, there's a special opportunity: Buy Fresh Buy Local's annual Farm Tour is happening all day on that Saturday. Visitors are encouraged to map out their own route (check out the map here). Begin at any of the participating farms (you'll pay a $10-per-carload fee at the first farm you visit) and get a pass that allows admission to all the other farms.

This year's tour includes more than 20 farms featuring spinning and sheep shearing at Wild Rose Farm, a hay wagon ride to visit cows and spring calves at Burns Angus Farm, sustainable living at Quiet Creek Herb Farm, in-depth tours of Pounds Turkey Farm, pick your own berries at Soergels Orchards and cheese-making demonstrations at Hatchtown Road Cheese. Expect kid-friendly activities, fresh samples, hands-on demos and even a few discounts on homegrown products.

"At PASA, we work to promote small farmers and help them with marketing and networking," says Leah Smith, PASA's member services manager for the western region. "And we do consumer education about local foods -- how to find them, appreciate them, connect with local farmers, and really understand where your food is coming from."

Money raised during next weekend's Farm Tour, she says, "helps us continue doing that consumer education."


Writer: Melissa Rayworth
Source: Leah Smith, PASA
Image courtesy of PASA/Buy Fresh Buy Local


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