Pittsburgh's Best of Green

Here are more than 50 of the best eco-friendly finds in our region.



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We are all aware of the dramatic enviromental transformation Pittsburgh has undergone in the decades since its smoky Steel City days to its present international leadership in laying the groundwork for green technology and architecture. As the city and region continue to lead the country with home-grown innovations in design and technology, how best can we Pittsburghers live the green life? We did our digging; in some cases it was very easy to find and hard to pick the best. In the process, we became green-obsessed and just could not get enough! We also learned that despite tough economic times, people would be willing to pay a bit more for green services such as car washes and dry cleaning. Here are just some of the "bests" that will make others go green with envy!

Best Green Thinking Is Ice Age: Duquesne University’s eco-friendly cooling system at the A.J. Palumbo Center uses ice—the first of its kind in a Pittsburgh educational facility. During evening hours, ice melts in 28 gigantic storage tanks, creating chilled water that is pumped across campus to cool university facilities. The cooling system uses up to 40 percent less electricity, saving the equivalent of cooling about 1,700 homes. The Palumbo Center, the Power Center and all of Duquesne’s major facilities—30-plus buildings—are now linked to the university’s co-generation plant, taking Duquesne University another step toward improved energy efficiency. Way to go, Dukes! Info: duq.edu

Best Way to Leave It Green: Who knew a “slimy pebble” that named a town and a university ages ago would exemplify student leadership in support of its environment? This past fall, Slippery Rock University (SRU) implemented its Leave It Green Fund. With more than $70,000 available each year, Slippery Rock University students, faculty and staff will be able to recommend and fund green projects on the campus of the Butler County school. SRU’s Leave It Green campaign was first created by SRU environmental-studies majors. With funding in place, SRU students, faculty and staff are now being encouraged by the Leave It Green group to start the process of completely greening the university.

Best Sustainable Web-Hosting Company: Are you an eco-conscious blogger in search of a green Web host? Look no farther than the South Side. Pair Networks Inc. is all green. It is a global Web-hosting and domain-name registering company that appeals to eco-sites such as Treehugger and GreenMap among others. Pair Networks recycles everything in-house and balances all carbon emissions from its operations. The employees also do their part by using public transportation, riding bikes and taking hybrid cars to work. Pair contributes money to TerraPass for all employees who drive to work to offset the carbon their vehicles produce each year. With such great environmental policies, Pair could make some other Web hosts (and their employees) green with envy. Info: pair.com

Best Green Operations: Eat’n Park Hospitality Group has taken eco-steps toward making its divisions sustainable. In its restaurants across the region, the group is reducing waste by eliminating paper placemats and paper towels and through recycling efforts in select restaurants. With Eat’n Park Hospitality Group’s food services at Carnegie Mellon University and Chatham University, and through Parkhurst dining services at major cultural institutions and businesses in the region, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group is greening through committees comprising students and staff. Current green initiatives meet the specific needs and interests of each site and client. Overall recycling goals for the corporation in 2009 include more composting and waste recycling with local agricultural-recycling companies. That’s certain to keep Smiley smiling with green pride. Info: Eatnpark.com

Best Recycling Program That Saves Lives: Global Links provides an environmental and morally responsible approach to medical aid. It redirects still-useful, unused and surplused medical supplies, equipment and furnishings from U.S. hospitals and prevents them from ending up in landfills and incinerators. Since 1989, it has recovered more than 3,000 tons of surplus medical supplies and delivered more than $140 million worth of supplies to needy hospitals and clinics in more than 70 countries. Info: globallinks.org

Best Reason Not to Toss the French-Fries Oil: It can be converted and put into your gas tank! Going biodiesel is easy. Theoretically, the fuel can be produced from nearly any carbon source. The most common sources are photosynthetic plants, used for vegetable oil. Fossil Free Fuel (FFF), created by Steel City Biofuel in Braddock, is a local biofuel created from used vegetable oil. FFF collects the oil from area restaurants. The company then filters it to remove water and food particles to create biodiesel fuel. So, as tempting as it may seem to use you own fryer oil, it needs to be filtered by professionals. Biodiesel fuel is also available at many local gas stations, including Get-Go. All new diesel cars can run on biodiesel. If you have an older diesel car, you can convert it. Steel City Biofuel offers biodiesel converter kits starting at $2,000 that allow older diesel cars to run on biodiesel fuel. Most of the vehicles that receive biodiesel converters are older Mercedes Benz turbo-diesel and some Volkswagen diesel models. Info: 412/894-8184, fossilfreefuel.com

Best Reason to Let Someone Else Do the Driving: Classy Cabs is going green! Owner Bob DeLucia’s goal is to have an entire green fleet of cabs, from cars that run on hydrogen to those that use electric and propane. To date, he has added 10 “green” cars to his fleet, though they are actually black in color. A cross between a cab and a limo, these sedans—each named after a Pittsburgh Steeler—offer energy-efficient luxury rides that fight air pollution. Your trip to the airport or around town has never been this good for the environment. Hail a ride—and all hail, Bob DeLucia. Info: 412/322-5080, classycab.com

Best Conceptual Housing System: TriPod is a prototype house demonstrating a prefabricated-home concept developed at Carnegie Mellon University. A prefabricated and modular house can be assembled with greater speed and superior craftmanship when compared with a traditional “stick built” house, which is constructed on the building site, piece by piece. The TriPod house has many energy-efficient features. It only uses 10 percent to 25 percent of the electricity that would be used in a standard-construction home of equivalent size. TriPod uses photovoltaic panels to gather energy from the sun, and this allows it to be a “zero energy house.” That means it generates as much electricity as it uses, and consequently, eliminates the need to use fossil fuel for power. The TriPod concept received a 2008 Lifecycle Building Challenge Award, a national honor created in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) that recognizes the future of green building and facilitates the reuse of local building materials. Look for your TriPod home in the near future. Info: lifecyclebuilding.org

Best Way to Get More Green Into Your Neighborhood: By 2012, there will be 20,000 trees planted throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan area to improve quality of life and the environment through TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, the local arm of a state-wide public-private partnership to help restore tree cover, educate citizens about planting trees, and build capacity among local governments to understand, protect and restore their urban trees. Community groups are encouraged to partner with TreeVitalize. The number, species and types of trees awarded to each group will be determined by TreeVitalize Pittsburgh, and each group will receive priority enrollment as a group for Tree Tenders training (see following blurb) offered at various locations in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Bring more trees to your neighborhood! Info: paconserve.org/216/treevitalize

Best Volunteer Opportunity With a Tree: How would you like to become a trained volunteer authorized to care for city-owned trees? Tree Tenders is a special group of volunteers who participate in a four-session course, organized by Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest, that equips you with the skills necessary to care for trees. Local tree experts provide instruction, and the course covers everything from tree biology to planting and pruning. Following completion of the course, Tree Tenders-in-Training participate in the program by volunteering to help trees (often at plantings in their own neighborhoods). Info: pittsburghforest.org/TreeTenders

Best Green Community in Planning: This past summer, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for Venango Trails, a new, rural residential village that takes its inspiration from the history and natural beauty of its site. Located in Marshall Township on a former golf course, Venango Trails will be a traditional, walkable neighborhood surrounded by tranquil parks, greenways and preserved open spaces. Venango Trails is working with Allegheny Land Trust to preserve 84 acres of mature woods, allowing them to be enjoyed by residents for generations to come. Although the designs of homes will reflect the Arts and Crafts period, they will offer modern amenities and materials that are both sustainable and energy-efficient. Venango Trails homes are being designed to provide 35 percent better energy efficiency than the current code for the region. All homes are designed with building materials selected for their reduced impact on the environment and longer life cycle, and are healthier for the residents. Model homes are scheduled to open by March. Project architect and land planner is local firm Burt Hill. Info: venangotrails.com

Best Green Slogan: ”Just Reuse It.” One of Pittsburgh’s first green businesses, Construction Junction diverts more than 700 tons of construction materials from landfills annually. This past year, Construction Junction was recognized as the best social-enterprise organization in the region by the Social Innovation Accelerator, a local support organization for social-enterprise nonprofit. Since its founding a decade ago, Construction Junction has created a green, recycling community, and houses many organizations and projects on-site. Free Ride, a project of Bike Pittsburgh, a local group that repairs donated bikes, donates bikes to Third World countries and holds repair workshops. Reclamere and eLoop provide customers with the service of having their electronic trash responsibly recycled. Steel City Biofuels, a nonprofit that promotes biofuels, is awaiting a state grant to install a biofuel pump. The city of Pittsburgh also has a recycling station at 214 N. Lexington St. in North Point Breeze. Info: 412/243-5025, constructionjunction.org

Best Way to Be Cleaner and Greener: Host a Green Cleaning Party. This is a fun event where you and your friends learn how to make nontoxic cleaners from common ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. No need to worry if it gets messy during the party, as you’ll have all the products and tools you need to clean up. And, you can encourage your friends to do the work by letting them think they are trying out the products. The Women’s Voices for the Earth, a national organization that engages women to advocate healthy-living environments, offers “green cleaning party kits,” which are the 21st-century equivalent to planning a Tupperware party. Info: womenandenvironment.org/greenclean

Best Way to Live Life in the Green Lane: Cycling isn’t just for recreation anymore. While driving your pollution-generating car around town, you probably have seen numerous cyclists on the new bike lanes sprouting up throughout the city thanks to Bike Pittsburgh. So, why not get in on the greenest transportation trend. Even new buildings are required to have bicycle parking. Participating in this year’s national Bike to Work Week in May is a great way to start. You will get into better shape and might outlive your car-driving friends, save money on fuel and help the environment. Info: bike-pgh.org

Best Way to Keep From Being Humiliated in the Shopping-Center Parking Lot: Using brown paper or plastic for your groceries—unless you recycle the bags—is environmentally unfriendly and deserving of market staff and patrons shaming you in the parking lot. Many local markets have friendly reminder signs posted. Don’t be lazy—walk back to your car and use your green grocery bags. Need further incentive? Most stores give you a discount to BYOB—“Bring Your Own Bags.” And for the fashion-conscious shopper, many stores sell reusable, sturdy tote bags in cool designs. Some tote bags are even made from recycled plastic bottles.

Best Way to Detoxify and Redesign Your Home: Start by looking at healthy building materials that are eco-friendly. Artemis Environmental Building Materials (3709 Butler St., Lawrenceville) sells high-quality, environmentally responsible, “green” building products. For the past four years, Artemis has expanded the availability and use of green building products in the tri-state region. The products that you’ll find at the store were selected because they are better for the environment, perform well and contribute to healthier living. “Don’t be afraid to introduce one healthy thing into your space,” co-owner Janice Donatelli says. Donatelli provides sage guidance to contractors, architects and home owners to help demystify working with green construction materials. They are not always more expensive—take bamboo flooring, for example. And, going green at home does not necessarily mean going contemporary. There are many green offerings that have a traditional aesthetic as well. Besides, investing in energy-efficient materials up front provides cost savings down the road. That makes living in a green space common cents. Info: 412/353-019, artemisenvironmental.com

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