The New Emerald City
Pittsburgh has been earning oohs and aahs for our wizardry in the green revolution. This year, we roll out the green carpet as the North American host for World Environment Day.
Illustration by Steven Salerno
W hy Pittsburgh as the North American host for World Environment Day (WED)? Perhaps it’s our transformation from smokestack industry to green economy or for our leadership and commitment to sustainability. Not to mention that we have bragging rights as the birthplace of Rachel Carson, founder of the contemporary environmental movement.
If Carson were still with us (other than in memory and as the namesake of a bridge downtown), she might find it surprising but probably would be ecstatic that we’ll be rolling out the green carpet starting on Earth Day, April 22, for a six-week, regionwide eco celebration. The event will culminate on June 5 when Pittsburgh will be the North American host for this year’s World Environment Day, a global event established in 1972 to raise environmental awareness and action.
Pittsburgh is one of six regional sites worldwide selected by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to host this year’s activities, which will focus on the theme “Biodiversity: Ecosystems Management and the Green Economy.”
But World Environment Day 2010 Pittsburgh is envisioned to be more than just a celebration; it’s also intended to be transformative and catalytic. “It is a very real opportunity for our region to create an economic strategy that will embrace the business of water,” says Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a public-policy advocacy group that helps integrate economic prosperity, social equity and environmental quality for regional businesses and communities through sustainable solutions.
In the long run, the six-week span of events is designed to foster the development of water projects of lasting significance for the people of our planet.
Pittsburgh has the unusual distinction of being a city with three rivers—or more. The so-called “Fourth River,” one of the most reliable aquifers on the planet, runs beneath the Golden Triangle. These water sources are part of the reason WED organizers deemed “Water Matters!” as the specific focus of Pittsburgh’s WED activities, which include numerous activities on or near the rivers and the first global water conference at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center on June 3.
Pittsburgh WED supporting partners are Bayer Corp., the Bayer USA Foundation, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Hillman Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. A leadership group comprised of UNEP, Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and Sustainable Pittsburgh oversees the event’s organizational efforts. But the entire partnership envisions WED as a way to catapult the region to the forefront of the world’s water stage and forge innovative solutions to water management, not only in our rivers, but also around the globe.
Unlike many parts of the United States and across the world, our region does not have a problem with water scarcity, but water quality is an issue.
“In terms of sustainability, Pittsburgh has come so far, whether it’s in innovation and research, environmental education, sustainable business practices or our efforts to improve the viability of our water supply,” says Greg Babe, president and CEO of Bayer Corp., which has its U.S. headquarters here. “As the North American host city for World Environment Day, the Pittsburgh region and the companies that call it home have a unique opportunity to focus on the water and its sources that surround our city. That is why we have chosen ‘Water Matters!’ as a focal point for the six-week period from Earth Day to World Environment Day.”
There are numerous new, exiting and ongoing green efforts in the private and public sectors of our region. And Allegheny County, aka “Green County,” is leading the way.
Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato says he is eager to show the world that the county is not only a leader in green technology but that it is leading by example. “Through our Allegheny Green initiative, the county is working to reduce our ecological footprint and is creating countywide policies and programs to further promote sustainable practices. We’re building green roofs and gardens, installing solar arrays and geo-thermal systems and expanding our parks and trails. We're also reclaiming and redeveloping brownfields, which sets future green development guidelines through our County Comprehensive Plan. In addition, we’re giving our residents the skills they need to compete for 21st-century jobs.”
Jeaneen Zappa, Allegheny County’s sustainability manager, is pursuing Onorato’s eco charge with her green gusto. One example is the installation of a green roof on the Allegheny County Office Building, located downtown. Half of the building’s roof, an area of 8,400 square feet, will be covered with a waterproof partition that contains native plants. These plants will provide an urban habitat for birds and butterflies, save energy, reduce storm-water runoff and cut down on the amount of pollution reaching our rivers. The roof also will serve as a model for residents and businesses to prove that green infrastructure works.
Many organizations are already actively participating in ecosystem management through the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (PCI), a collaborative effort sponsored by the Roy A. Hunt Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the Surdna Foundation. PCI’s goal is to lead residents, businesses, government and institutions of higher learning to increase awareness of actions that reduce pollution from global warming and its impact on health and the economy. PCI will adapt a water-conservation theme in recognition of WED by offering practical steps that Pittsburghers can make in support of water and ecosystem sustainability. (Info: pittsburghclimate.org)
Pittsburgh-area government officials, businesses, organizations and individuals are planning an array of events and activities to complement World Environment Day (WED). Water and eco-related programming starts in the region in early April with the concentration of activities and events that “bridge the gap” during the six-week period from Earth Day on April 22 to WED on June 5. Most events are open to the public. Some “bridging the gap” events include the following:
April 22: EARTH DAY
C.A.U.S.E. Challenge High School Film Festival, hosted by partners Bayer Corp., Carnegie Science Center's Sci Tech Initiative and Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Pittsburgh-area high school students will present videos they created on the theme “Mutual Impact: The Environment and You” at the Carnegie Science Center’s Works Theatre.
Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium will present special interactive and learning stations at the zoo to celebrate Wild Earth Day, hosted by the Conservation Education Department. This year’s Wild Earth Day will be filled with exciting, fun activities for students.
Pittsburgh Glass Center, one of only two green glass-art facilities in the United States, unveils its local juried exhibit, “From the Earth to the Fire and Back,” which continues through June 13. The exhibit showcases glass artwork addressing environmental concerns.
Spring Earth Day Redd Up, hosted by Citizens Against Litter.
Globalization Film Festival at Carnegie Mellon University.
Earth Day Cleanup in Panther Hollow, hosted by Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest and Pennsylvania Resources Council.
Nine Mile Run Stream Sweep, hosted by Nine Mile Run Watershed Association.
Party for the Planet and GreenMarket Place, hosted by PPG Industries, Pennsylvania Resources Council and Conservation Consultants.
April 30: ARBOR DAY
Tree Planting, hosted by Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest.
Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Policy Conference, hosted by Pennsylvania Environmental Council and Duquesne University.
Eco Home & Garden Festival, a sustainability-focused garden festival merging gardeners and the eco-conscious, hosted by Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
National Bike to Work Day.
Tireless Friday, hosted by Tireless Project and Allegheny CleanWays.
Annual Rachel Carson Legacy Event, which honors the environmentalist at her Springdale homestead.
First Global Water Conference at David L. Lawrence Convention Center, organized by the Pittsburgh World Environment Day Partnership. Conference organizers expect outcomes that will foster greater opportunities for the region’s burgeoning water-focused businesses to join forces with local universities and researchers in solving global water problems.
Kick-off of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, which has embraced the green movement throughout the past few years.
June 5: WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY
River Opus “Choreographed” Gathering
Opening of Earth House, Pittsburgh’s first zero-energy dwelling.
Millvale CleanSweep II, hosted by Millvale Borough, Millvale Development Corp. and Millvale Focus Group.
For a complete list of activities and events, visit the official World Environment Day 2010 Pittsburgh Web site at pittsburghwed.com.
The 13th annual Women’s Health & The Environment Conference will take place in Pittsburgh on April 21. The theme is “Healthy Places—Healthy Lives.” As a salute to the role women have played and continue to fulfill in protecting Mother Earth, here are profiles of three of the many remarkable eco-conscious women in this region, past and present.
Teresa Heinz: A philanthropic innovator and an environmental visionary, Teresa Heinz continues to sponsor the annual Women’s Health & The Environment Conference, which she founded in 1995. This conference, which is open to the public, brings women together with health, policy and environmental experts.
Heinz believes that the conventional concept of the environment—involving only the traditional green issues such as air and water quality—is no longer adequate to the lives that people (and especially women) live today. “The more questions we ask, the more we can make informed choices and live healthier lives,” says Heinz, who is the wife of Sen. John Kerry, of Massachusetts, and the widow of the late Sen. John Heinz, formerly of Pittsburgh. “Here’s why,” she continues: “Ignorance kills, and knowledge saves lives and helps us live healthier ones. What I have taken away from conference after conference is that there is no one single way through which to look at health care, and that is the position we start from at the Women's Health & Environment events.”
Attendance is free and lunch is provided, but registration for previous years’ events has closed quickly. (Info: womenshealthpittsburgh.org)
Rachel Carson: With the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, writer, scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson gave rise to the modern environmental movement. She developed her love of nature growing up along the banks of the Allegheny River just upstream from Pittsburgh in Springdale, where her homestead is preserved as homage to one of the most important environmental voices of the 20th century.
Trained as a marine biologist at what is now Chatham University, Carson obtained a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins University and worked for many years for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In addition to Silent Spring, she penned three volumes on marine life, all of which became bestsellers. (Info: rachelcarsonhomestead.org)
Cordelia S. May: Through the years, Pittsburgh native and philanthropist Cordelia S. May was known for her sensitivity to humanity’s ecological footprint. This found expression in her charitable donations to land conservation, watershed protection, environmental education and population causes.
In 1996, May established the Colcom Foundation, whose mission continues since her death in 2005. The foundation fosters a sustainable environment by addressing causes and consequences of overpopulation and its adverse effects on natural resources. Regionally, the foundation supports conservation, environmental projects and cultural assets. (Info: colcomfdn.org)
1. Try an All-Organic Cupcake from Dozen bake shop: It’s a vanilla cupcake infused with local, organic basil and topped with organic lemon buttercream. This treat uses organic flour and sugar and hormone-free milk from Turner Dairy Farms. It is the first all-organic, all-local cupcake on Dozen’s seasonal menu. Dozen sources its ingredients locally through Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, Mildred’s Daughter’s Farm, Grow Pittsburgh and Turner Dairy Farms. What’s more is that Dozen will embark on some cool green initiatives this year, including composting all of its organic kitchen waste, planting a small vegetable garden at a farm in Butler County and acquiring nearly a dozen chickens to supply eggs exclusively for its shops. (Info: dozenbakeshop.com)
2. Consider a Green Treat for Your Hands and Feet: When you get “The Pittsburgh Organicure,” Tina-Lisa Agresta, of Jeffrey Smith Salon, will pamper you with her all-organic hand and nail treatments. She has been whipping up her all-natural products for decades, using ingredients that are as local as possible. From mint sugar scrubs to custom-blended essential oil lotions, your hands and feet will thank you—and so will the environment. (Info: 412/683-8153)
3. Save Money by Spending Your Dollars Locally: It’s easier for us to choose eco-friendly alternatives to products and services that we use every day. EcoCents: Your Local Guide to Green Living is a brand-new guide that offers hundreds of dollars in coupons. Developed by Megan Cook and other like-minded entrepreneurs, it’s a one-stop guide to cafés serving locally farmed, organic grub as well as alternative-health clinics, yoga studios and socially responsible nonprofits and businesses. (Info: ecocentspgh.com)
4. What do Diana Krall, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra and the Allegheny County Courthouse Have in Common? The old song “Just a Garden in the Rain.” Visitors will find a teaching rain garden in the Allegheny County Courthouse courtyard on Grant Street. The Three Rivers Rain Garden Alliance, 3 Rivers Wet Weather and Penn State Center-Pittsburgh are working with the county to educate residents and businesses on how to develop rain gardens.
These gardens can be planted in yards and other green spaces to help offset storm water rushing into our region’s poorly combined sewer systems. Developing a rain garden is an affordable way to provide increased value to homes and businesses. Now that’s something to really sing about.
5. Who Knew Retro Mod Furniture Is So Green: Retro Mod Décor surely knows. Not only is retro furniture a current craze in décor in today’s interior-design market, it also is a great way to green your home. Owners Roger Levine and Jeff Gordon are hip, mod, green advocates who encourage folks to consider vintage pieces when furnishing their residences.
When you choose retro, you eliminate the need to cut down more trees and reduce pollution associated with manufacturing new products. Retro furnishings are economical. Often, the cost is less than buying newer items, and the quality can be much better. (Info: who-new.com)
6. Here’s a Real “Green” Giant Idea: Bryan Ward, founder of Giant Ideas, a full-service creative agency, approached his new downtown office building from a sustainable, renewable and energy-efficient standpoint.
The company took full advantage of natural daylight, low-flow water management and other technologies to work together with eco-friendly materials, including recycled aluminum kitchen tiles and wall panels made from sunflower seeds. A cool green environment is a very cool giant idea. (Info: giantideas.com)
7. Local Water With a Kick: Kick back, relax and raise a glass to Earth Day and Pittsburgh’s global green excellence with local favorites, such as The Blushing Blair Martini or the Black & Gold Martini. Boyd & Blair vodka is a local, sustainable and foodie-friendly libation made from Pennsylvania potatoes. In just two years, this hometown vodka is well on its way to world domination. It is already available statewide and in New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C., and Illinois. (Info: boydandblair.com)
8. Trusts in the Land—Save Our Environment: In land conservation, timing is critical. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy’s new Colcom Revolving Fund for Local Land Trusts offers access to funds for purchasing projects that involve the conservation of land.
This $1 million initiative is the latest program from WPC, which has been enriching our relationship with the natural world since 1932 by conserving water, protecting the region’s natural places and founding six state parks. The fund has even helped to preserve Fallingwater, the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. (Info: paconserve.org)
9. Exclusive Green Plate Special: Not many people know that one of the largest high-end chinaware companies is not only green but also local. Steelite International, based in New Castle, takes fine dining and the environment very seriously. It is the only chinaware company in the world to be ISO-certified green since the certificate’s introduction in 1996.
As a result, clay is recycled, and fewer chemicals are required to separate manufacturing waste, resulting in cleaner water discharge. So, the next time you dine at Lidia’s Pittsburgh or El Bulli in Catalonia, Spain, know that your gastronomic delights are being served with eco-friendly tableware. (Info: steelite.com)
10. Enjoy a Massage That’s Healthy for You and the Environment: We all know massage therapy is about health and healing. Now you can relax and enjoy eco-conscious massage therapy without leaving the comfort of your home.
Environmentally conscious American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) practitioner Erica Wessell provides Swedish, deep-tissue and sports-massage therapy sessions to her dedicated followers. By going to clients’ homes, her services save energy that would have been used to keep an office in operation. Wessell uses certified organic oils, creams and botanical extracts, and she will blend organic aromatherapy oils of your choice into your treatment. She brings her own luxurious organic-cotton linens, which are pure eco-bliss; they’re laundered with biodegradable, vegetable-based detergent. (Info: 412/448-7688)
11. Hang out on the Porch of OUR First Urban Eco-Village: The Hamnett Homestead Sustainable Living Center is a turn-of-the-century Victorian house that will resurrect “front porch culture” in Wilkinsburg. When complete, it will serve as a community gathering and education place. The project is an important example of eco-villages, a sustainable-living practice already found in the Pacific Northwest, and it also demonstrates the viability of reusing the region’s valuable housing stock.
John Folan, Carnegie Mellon University’s T. David Fitz-Gibbon visiting professor of architecture, linked two fifth-year CMU urban-design courses to create this soon-to-be completed sustainable and forward-thinking community. (Info: cmu.edu/architecture)
12. Flower Power Made from Recycled Art: Pittsburgh-based design company Art Energy Design uses sustainable-energy technology in its artistic designs. Power Flower’s sculptures are just one example of its integration of socially responsible technologies into designs. The sculptures integrate wind, solar and recycling technologies into the urban landscape by creating installations for the public to enjoy and showcasing them around the region. (Info: artenergydesign.com)
John Fetterman: How could we ignore the Mayor of Cool, His Honor John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock? Sure, he’s been on the cover of the Atlantic, but never mind that: He’s the greenest tattooed dude this side of the Mississippi. Fetterman helped to start an organic urban farm on vacant lots adjacent to a local steel mill and saved tens of thousands of feral honeybees infesting a vacant building from the exterminator and sent them to form apiary colonies all around the region.
Thinking beyond his borough, Fetterman has supported a project to make inexpensive water filters from clay and sawdust to provide safe drinking water for people in developing countries and victims of natural disasters. He has played a national role in the quest to curb climate change by advocating the Cap and Trade Bill as spokesman for several environmental organizations and by testifying in Washington, D.C. Thanks to funding from the Heinz Endowments, Braddock begins constructing the first and only “green roof” building in the Mon Valley this spring. (Info: 15104.cc)
Greg Boulos: Eco-Renaissance man Greg Boulos is actively involved in a number of sustainable local economic-development initiatives—from food and fuel to energy efficiency. He is the Mid-Atlantic regional governor for Slow Food USA, CEO of Homesteaders Consulting LLC, co-owner of Blackberry Meadows Farm and an organic farmer.
With a master’s degree in sustainable systems from Slippery Rock University, he’s bringing together like-minded leaders to find sustainable solutions to correct our region’s water- and sewage-system problems. Boulos is developing a more holistic approach that reduces investment in new pipes by making a major investment in cisterns and rain barrels. When he’s not bringing together water-management experts and engineers to develop the idea, he’s the on-the-farm handyman. (Info: blackberrymeadows.com)
Janice Donatelli: Born and raised on a farm in Kentucky, Janice Donatelli has always been interested in nature. Combining that with her passion for design, she co-founded Artemis Environmental Building Materials in Lawrenceville five years ago.
As the first business in the tri-state area catering to sustainable design and building, Donatelli provides services that are in high demand. “At our first national convention [of green building suppliers], there were 11 of us around the table. Now there are 111,” she says of the bourgeoning interest in the field. She adds that the people most affected in the building arts are chemically sensitive people, self-described “canaries in the coal mine” because they experience various health problems related to untested chemicals found in many common building products.
Green products are the solution, she says. Young people and people with families are quickly learning about the health benefits of green building and design techniques as developers and contractors learn about the cost benefits. (Info: artemisenvironmental.com)
Court Gould: One of the region’s go-to leaders in sustainable development is Court Gould. He is executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh and serves on local, state and national advisory committees dealing with sustainability and public policy.
Gould was a German Marshall Fund delegate in the study of regional economies in Europe and a featured speaker at an international conference on sustainable development in Hiroshima, Japan. He is active in community organizations, including the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and the Local Government Academy. (Info: sustainablepittsburgh.org)
Bill Peduto: Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto has sponsored a number of bills and initiatives aimed at saving the environment and also saving taxpayers’ money. Most recently, Peduto is leading an effort to begin the transition from old-style street lighting to new LED technology, which will save millions of dollars by reducing electricity use and cutting carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere.
Other recent green legislation introduced by Peduto includes the following: replacing gas-guzzlers with hybrids in the city’s motor pool; encouraging residences and businesses to build living green roofs of plants; tightening the rules on recycling (no, it’s not optional—you can be fined if you don’t put out those blue plastic bags or bins bi-weekly); and mandating green policies and procedures in the mayor’s office. (Info: city.pittsburgh.pa.us/district8)
Jamie Moore: It’s no surprise that Jamie Moore is director of sourcing and sustainability for Eat’n Park Hospitality Group. Through his passionate commitment to eco-conscious eating, he has helped the group establish one of the most aggressive greening programs of any restaurant company in the country. Moore promotes EcoSteps, an education plan that communicates Eat’n Park’s actions on protecting the environment, supporting local communities and expanding its role as a socially responsible organization.
In 2010, Eat’n Park restaurants will increase their recycling and composting programs, and the group will open an LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) restaurant in May at the Waterworks Mall in Fox Chapel. When he’s not implementing sustainability initiatives that he develops for Eat’n Park, Moore volunteers his time developing funding strategies for the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and can be found where he is most comfortable—cooking in his home kitchen. (Follow the Eat’n Park blog for Moore’s sustainability and “EcoSteps” updates. (Info: blog.eatnpark.com)
Lissa Rosenthal returns to Pittsburgh Magazine this month to share her interest in all things green. Last April, she tackled the “Best of Green” feature for the magazine. Her home, featured in the January issue of the magazine, is one of the first and largest green renovations in the Pittsburgh region.(Info: greystonedrive.info) Lissa is the fundraising and PR muscle behind many of the area’s cultural, food and beverage campaigns.