Mar 29-30: PA Community Rights Workshop

This Pennsylvania Community Rights Workshop is not to be missed by those who are committed to Community Empowerment for a Sustainable Future.  

·       Wondering why corporations have more power than those of us living in our community?
·       Wondering why Harrisburg licenses and permits corporations to harm our community?
·       Wondering why Harrisburg routinely prevents us from making decisions that are in the best interests of our community?

The Pennsylvania Community Rights Workshop takes an in-depth look at how Pennsylvania's political and legal structures have been set up to protect the interests of an elite minority, at the expense of the majority of Pennsylvanians. We'll look at how Pennsylvania's constitution has continually evolved since the American Revolution to protect wealth and privilege over community self-government. We'll look at how corporations in Pennsylvania have received more rights and protections than those of us living in our community, and we'll look at how Pennsylvanians have pushed back against these oppressive structures to reclaim democracy in their communities.  Instructors from

Finally, we'll consider what it would take to create a Pennsylvania constitution that protects the rights of people, communities, and nature by securing our inalienable right to local self-government, free from corporate and state interference.
TO REGISTER, EMAIL  and let us know how you will be paying. 
Space is limited to 35 participants.  The total cost of the workshop is $60 per person. A deposit of $25 must be paid by March 25, unless a special arrangement is made (call Wanda at 724.327.2767 or 412.596.0066) or email  It is possible to PAY BY CREDIT CARD OR PAYPAL ACCOUNT! Log on to and scroll down to Environmental Justice. 

Checks should be made out to the Thomas Merton Center, with a memo notation “Community Rights.” Please send to Thomas Merton Center, 5129 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15224. The balance should be paid in full the evening of March 29 at the workshop. We are keeping our expenses to a minimum to ensure affordability for everyone.

Friday, March 29,  6pm to 9pm
Saturday, March 30,  9am to 6pm

Friends Meeting House
4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Oakland neighborhood, Pittsburgh

Mar 28: House made of garbage...

House Made of Garbage Pays no Utility Bills: Mark Dixon Speaks on Earthships

Mark will be talking about Earthships, which are houses made of garbage (tires pounded full of dirt, laying the foundation; pop bottles arrayed in concrete to form walls) that basically don't pay utility bills because of how they just suck up heat, have sloping roofs that empty into rain barrels, that fill toilets, that feed indoor year-round-producing gardens, and so on. Mark's studied them attentively and visited them, too, since he wants to build one here in Pittsburgh. Footage of the original Earthship in New Mexico was part of YERT, the environmental roadtrip movie he made with Ben Evans.

Just a note of clarification: This is not an "official" Earthship event. Mark doesn't represent the Earthship Biotecture organization in any way, and he has not been formally trained by them.

7 p.m. in William Pitt Union 837 (at Pitt)

This talk is part of the TransitionPGH Spring 2013 Resilience Speaker Series:

A sustainable living mecca: used tires pounded full of dirt, aluminum cans, & glass bottles make super-insulative walls; rainwater fills mutli-1000-gallon tanks, used for showers, which in turn feed indoor tropical food forests; and they're beautiful. Starting from the original in Arizona, this model of sustainable design has spread to rural & urban areas worldwide, and will soon join the super-sustainable marvels of Pittsburgh.

Mark Dixon traveled the U.S. for his multiple-award-winning documentary YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip, where he interviewed the father of Earthships, Michael Reynolds, at his home Earthship in Arizona. Ever since, Mark has studied Earthships around the world, preparing to build one here in Pittsburgh.

Mar 28: Gas Rush Stories screening and panel discussion

Gas Rush Stories (featured at our 13th Sustainability Salon) are short documentaries about natural gas exploration.  This screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring organic farmers Maggie Henry and Stephen Cleghorn, Raina Rippel of the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and filmmaker Kirsi Jansa.

6:30 p.m. at the East End Food Co-op, 7516 Meade St., Pittsburgh 15208.  Free and open to the public;  reservations are encouraged (call 412-242-3589).  

Gas Rush Stories has been produced with a grant from The Heinz Endowments.

Mar 22-23: Farm to Table conference

Farm to Table Logo

The seventh annual Farm to Table conference is two fabulous days of live cooking demonstrations,  local and organic food sampling, educational programs on health, nutrition, and gardening, kids' activities, and networking opportunities.  Learn where your food comes from, and where to find businesses and organizations that can provide you with healthy food and healthy lifestyle choices.

This year's theme will be Do It Yourself.  Growing, cooking, canning, preserving, seed saving, etc.

Details below are from last year's conference;  I'll update as new information becomes available.
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. both days at the David Lawrence Convention Center downtown.  Friday from 5 to 8 is a grand Local Food Tasting event with live music and even more exhibitors;  Saturday morning there's a Networking Breakfast.  Cost: $15/one day, $25/both days, $25 for the tasting event and $10 for the breakfast.  Lots more information and online registration are at .

Pennsylvania teachers can attend for free, and can obtain Act 48 credits (email Erin for details).

Mar 20: Bus Rapid Transit meeting

The Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and Sustainable Pittsburgh are co-sponsoring a public meeting intended to provide information about, answer questions and discuss concerns  from the public about the Allegheny County Port Authority’s Rapid Transit proposal.

A coalition of 40 stakeholder organizations is investigating the potential for BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) in the Downtown-Oakland-East End corridor.  BRT is intended to improve public transportation.  It differs from standard bus service, having more comfortable buses, more regular service, upgraded stops and stations, and real-time rider information.

Come hear about how the potential transit project may serve Squirrel Hill, and express your opinions.

6 p.m. at The Children's Institute, 1405 Shady Avenue. Pittsburgh 15217.  More information is available at

Mar 19: Beyond Tunnel Vision lecture

Join the Clean Rivers Campaign in welcoming Matthew Jones, PW PhD, and Principal Engineer at Hazen & Sawyerlk in North California.  His work is focused on water resources, particularly stormwater management.  At North Carolina State University, he researched and monitored the performance of BMPs (best management practices) for stormwater, developed design recommendations, created models to simulate BMP functionality, and trained others in the field.  He has advanced his stormwater expertise at Hazen & Sawyer, developing stormwater models, green infraxtructure designs, pilot retrofit designs and monitoring programs, and stormwater design and management tools.   He has performed stormwater analyses throughout the country.

Time and location TBA;  for more information, visit

Mar 14-17: Pirates of Penzance at Taylor Allderdice

Taylor Allderdice High School presents Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance

This production is a lot of fun, and Maren's daughter Kielan plays one of the Major General's daughters!

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Taylor Allderdice Auditorium (near Nicholson and Shady Avenue in Squirrel Hill).  $8 adults, $5 kids and students.

Mar 14: Inspire speaker Stephen Ritz on healthy life.

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The Green Building Alliance's INSPIRE speaker series on Food for Big Thoughts:  Eat and Live Healthy.

5:30-8:30 p.m. at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.  For more information and to register online, go here.  Cost:  GBA or partner organization member: $25;  non-member $45.  For group rates and scholarship information, please contact Jenna Cramer.  

Sritztephen Ritz
Stephen Ritz is a South Bronx teacher/administrator who believes that students shouldn't have to leave their community to live, learn and earn in a better one. Moving generations of students into spheres of personal and academic successes they have never imagined while reclaiming and rebuilding the Bronx, Stephen’s extended student and community family have grown over 25,000 pounds of vegetables in the Bronx while generating extraordinary academic performance.
His Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage en route to graduation.

Mar 10: Empty Bowls Dinner

The 18th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner is a simple meal of soup and bread that reminds us that many of our neighbors are struggling to feed their families.  Larry Berger from Saturday Light Brigade Radio will host this family-friendly event with strolling musicians, a magician, and children's activities.  Local chefs and celebrities serve the soup to over 1200 people, each of whom can take home a handmade ceramic bowl made by a local schoolchild, a professional potter, or another community member.  There are even celebrity-autographed bowls, including Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Canned Heat, Franco Harris, Stevie Nicks, Terrance Simien, Jeff Dunham, and Steelers and Penguins -- so far!  

2-6 p.m. at Rodef Shalom (at 5th and Morewood in Oakland).  $20 includes a bowl to take home.  More information, links to auction items, and online ticket sales can be found here.

Mar 9: Free Skool Teach-in

The 4th River Free Skool will hold a Teach-In Bonanza, featuring a bazaar, massages and tarot (by donation), a See Swap sponsored by the People's Garden Pittburgh.

2-8 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church (5401 Center Ave., 15232).  You can find more information and RSVP on Facebook.

Mar 9: Marcellus Protest Frack Forum

Join Marcellus Protest for the Marcellus Protest Frack Forum.

At our third bimonthly Frack Forum, our guest will be Mark Dixon, a member of the group Transition Pittsburgh. Mark will show his film "Your Environmental Road Trip" (, and a discussion will follow.
In addition, we will get updates and strategize about ongoing campaigns, including holding the DEP accountable to the people of Pennsylvania rather than to the gas industry.
1-4 p.m. at the Friends Meeting House at 4836 Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside.

Mar 7: C. Arden Pope on air pollution and health

The Distinguished Lecture Series in Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy: Environment and Health
Particulate Air Pollution and Human Health: Science, Controversy, and Public PolicyC. Arden Pope, III, Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics, Brigham Young University
This presentation will provide an overview of the science regarding the health of effects of particulate air pollution and will discuss related controversies pertaining to public policy efforts to control air pollution.

4:30 pm in Porter Hall 100 on the Carnegie Mellon campus.  Free & open to the public.  More information here.

Mar 3: Sustainability Salon on Food

The 14th Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon (see below if that's new to you) will take place on Sunday, March 3rd.  The topic will be FOOD -- growing it ourselves, and sourcing it locally.  This will be our second annual Food edition;  this is a good time of year for would-be gardeners to get started, and for urban folks to find their favorite farmers and markets.  More details will be forthcoming, but c'mon out if you want to find out about how to start seedlings, make compost, get a garden going, grow mushrooms, keep bees and chickens, or ferment food and drink;  learn about food foraging or where to purchase wild edibles;  explore organic gardening and permaculture concepts;  meet farmers and join a CSA;  connect with PASA, our regional sustainable agriculture organization;  find local farmers' markets, community gardens, school gardens, and volunteer opportunities;  see how grocery stores work with local producers;  think about humane and healthy livestock practices;  hear about other upcoming local food events like Farm to Table;  find out what's going on up at Eden Hall Farm;  source seeds, seedlings, and gardening supplies;  talk about preserving food at home, or learn about a great local restaurant, bakery, or wholesale supplier…  the list will depend in part on who can come!   

If you haven't been here before, you may enjoy checking out our roof garden as well as the many other interesting things around our place.  That'll mainly be happening between 3 & 4 p.m.

Update on speakers:  So far we'll be featuring CSA farmer and PASA board member Don Kretschmann;  local PASA staffer Leah Smith;  farmers Ron Stidmon of  Enon Valley Garlic and Oliver Griswold of North Woods Ranch;  Tom Patterson of Wild Purveyors;  Erin Hart of Farm to Table fame;  Rayden Sorock, who coordinates community gardens for Grow Pittsburgh);  Nicole Muise-Kielkucki of the Lawrenceville Farmer's Market;  Emily Schmidlapp of the Farmers@Firehouse farmer's market, Lydia Vanderhill of Penn's Corner Farm Alliance;  Isaac Hill of the People's Garden of Pittsburgh on the philosophical and ethical grounding of permaculture;  fellow permaculturist and author Darrell Frey on native greens in the diet;  East End Food Co-op manager Justin Pizzella with an update on their new Ends Statement and what it means for all of us...  and that's just a taste (so to speak) of the folks we'll feature leading discussions during the afternoon.  Stay tuned for more additions to the roster!

Mark your calendar:  There are so many great foodfolk in and around Pittsburgh that we will continue in this realm at the April salon (tentatively on April 6th).  People from Frankferd Farms (solar-powered grain mill and regional organic & natural food supplier), Ron Gargasz Organic Farms, the Pittsburgh Public Market, Legume Bistro, ApoIdeaWhole Foods MarketEast End Food Co-op, Eat 'n' Park, the Pennsylvania Resources Council, and the Carnegie Libraries garden project will be here for one or the other Food salon.  At both events, you'll be able to pick up seed catalogs containing valuable cultural information as well as excellent seeds and supplies, as well as one for Frankferd;  I also have seeds, tools, and plants available, and can even get you started brewing your own kombucha.)  The following month, we'll focus on green building and highlight three different visions of what that means (Earthship, Passivhaus, and the Living Building Challenge), will take place on May 4th.

3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3pm; we plan on introducing speakers beginning around 4pm after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.  Please email me to RSVP (important for yesses and maybes, please do so each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, attendance varies from 25 to 75, and it helps to have a handle on numbers in advance;  also, weather and such can be unpredictable and it's good to know who to contact if there's a change) -- and I'll send directions and/or a trail map if you need 'em.  Be sure to include salon in the Subject line, as I receive a ridiculous amount of email every day.  Bring food or drink to share if you can, along with musical instruments if you play.  Check back on MarensList (where you can find information on all sorts of environmental and social justice events), for updates.  

Note that I'll be sending out directions and such, and any late-breaking info, to all the RSVP'd folks by Sunday morning if not before.  One of these days I'll streamline this process a bit (assistance would be welcome), but for now it takes a while to to dot all my i's and cross all my t's.  
For the uninitiated, A Sustainability Salon is basically a house party with an environmental theme -- usually with featured speakers on a particular topic -- accompanied by stimulating conversation, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.
Past topics have included air qualityhealth care, solar powerfoodtrees & park stewardshipalternative energy & climate policy, regional watershed issues, and fantastic film screenings & discussions (led by the filmmakers) over the winter with both YERT and Gas Rush Stories.

Quite a few people have asked me what sorts of food to bring -- and my answer, as always, is whatever inspires you;  I believe in the "luck" part of potlucks.  Tasty noshings for the afternoon, hearty main dishes or scrumptious salads and sides for dinner, baked goods from biscuits and breads to brownies or baklava -- and/or beverages of any kind:  wine, beer, hard or sweet cider (the latter we can mull if you like), juice, tea, whatever (I've got the kombucha covered, though it's always fun to compare).  The more the merrier!  Local fare is always particularly welcome, whether homegrown or boughten.  Dishes containing meat are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.  

And if you like to make music or listen to homemade music, don't forget the evening sing -- we typically run the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time is had by all.  Bring instruments if you play, and/or pick up one of ours.  Conversations will continue through the evening as well. 

Mar 2: Seed swap and seed saving workshop

Join Grow Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory for a celebration of growing, sharing, and eating food!
Seed Swap and Seed Saving Workshop
10 am - 12 pm:  Seed Swap at the main branch Carnegie Library (Oakland) 4400 Forbes Avenue

International Poetry Room (2nd floor) Come swap veggie seeds at the library with Grow Pittsburgh and Phipps.

Bring leftover seeds from last year (if you have them) and containers to

take home an exciting selection of seeds to grow in your garden this year.

Seed Saving Workshop | 11:15 am (during the seed swap)

Oversize Room (2nd floor) During the seed swap, Leah Smith from PASA will teach seed saving basics.

Learn about the Seed & Story Library and how you can start contributing.

Community Potluck | 12:30 - 2:30 pm

Phipps Conservatory

Featuring a guest presenter from Penn's Corner Farm Alliance.

Registration is required. Please call Phipps Conservatory 412.441.4442 x3925 or visit

Want to know more? Ask a librarian. 412.622.3151 |

This program is made possible by the Mary Jane Berger Memorial Foundation.

Mar 2: Tree Tender course

Become a Tree Tender, and join nearly 1200 Pittsburghers in Greening the City One Tree at a Time.
Tree Tenders learn about urban forestry practices, tree biology, planting, pruning, and basic tree care  Tree Tenders are qualified to apply for free trees for their community, and they participate in ongoing tree plantings, pruning workshops, tree care days, and more.
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (7101 Hamilton Avenue, Homewood).  Pre-registration is required.  Pre-register online here. 
$40 includes registration, materials, lunch, and instruction.  Scholarships available: Contact or call 412-362-6360.  Due to the nature of this course, we prefer Tree Tenders be at least 16 years of age.  If you have any special needs, please let us know.

Mar 1: Compassionate Pittsburgh Launch and Music Party

Compassionate Pittsburgh

will launch on Friday, March 1 with a celebration including
a meet & greet among compassionate yinzers,
NVC-infused live music by the inspiring kRi and hettie, *
and information around the new endeavor of Compassionate Pittsburgh,
especially a day-long training event with Jeff Brown on Saturday, April 27

7-9 p.m. at Karen and Dave’s home, 7131 Thomas Blvd (15208). All are
welcome to bring a beverage or snack to share. RSVP by clicking here (or alternate rsvp link)

Even if you are unable to make it on Friday, please RSVP to let us know of your interest in being connected in some way with Compassionate Pittsburgh for future contact.

Meet other nvc supporters, greet newcomers, show support for kRi and hettie and begin the journey with Compassionate Pittsburgh.

Compassionate Pittsburgh (our site is in baby giraffe stage, with more input from our community it will be growing up into a more complete site)

Compassionate Pittsburgh is an expression of
An Ordered Life
590 S. Braddock Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15221

**What is NVC?
Nonviolent Communication is an approach to communication that emphasizes compassion as the motivation for action rather than fear, guilt, shame, blame, coercion, threat or justification for punishment. In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. NVC is NOT about getting people to do what we want. It is about creating a quality of connection that gets everyone’s needs met through compassionate giving. link
see also the Wikipedia entry

* Can you tell me more about the music of kRi and hettie?
"kRi & hettie are a folk duo who blend acoustic guitar, spoken word and harmonies... if you're searching for inspiration, look no further." ~Sara Havens, LEO Weekly
A show with kRi & hettie is a theatrical experience where the message is just as important as the beat and melody. They seamlessly weave humor, storytelling, music, and poetry into a performance that inspires both young and old while maintaining a wide-open-hearted feeling.  link