Putting Down Roots: Maren's List
Information bringing people together...
Maren's list of environmental, cultural, and
social justice events in and around Pittsburgh.
MarensList is Experiencing Technical Difficulties
Due to a change in how this platform works, it has become very difficult to make new postings for future events. I hope to find a solution soon, but in the meantime my apologies for a rather thin slate of events! I do consolidate a wide variety of events in each Sustainability Salon listing, so look there for "Other Items of Interest". There really is a lot going on... note that I also share events on Facebook, so look me up there if you're at loose ends.
Local food resources
March 26: Legislation on Single-use Plastics
|This canvas bag (center) has been used hundreds of times (plastic bags sourced from a local "recycling" bin).|
The 134th Sustainability Salon will conclude our short series inspired by new legislation that will enable major environmental improvements, on a human scale. On Sunday, March 26th (4 p.m. to 7 or so), we'll look at Single-use Plastics.
Plastics are a scourge on our air, land, and water. Plastic production generally requires the extraction of fossil carbon from deep underground, and is one of the most greenhouse-gas intensive industries. Other types of pollution make plastic production areas (like Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" and now also Beaver County, PA) unhealthy places to live. Contrary to industry propaganda, very little plastic is actually recycled; some is downcycled, but most goes to landfill, litter, or incineration. And while plastic doesn't break down very fast chemically, so plastic pollution persists (80% of the junk in the world's oceans is plastic), it does break up into smaller and smaller bits, called microplastics, Humans, on average, inadvertently ingest an amount of plastic equivalent to a credit card every week -- and wildlife that mistakes floating plastic for food just keeps eating it until they're full, and then die of starvation. And wildlife often gets tangled or trapped in plastic trash. How can we stem the tide? Legislation needs to play a part.
Here in Pittsburgh, we will soon join the list of municipalities banning retailers from giving out single-use plastic bags at checkout or delivery. We'll hear from Pittsburgh City Council member Erika Strassburger, who proposed this legislation and brought it to a unanimous Council vote last April. She'll share the details of the new law, and what it'll take to make this big change.
Of course, it would be great to take similar action at the county level. Allegheny County Council member Anita Prizio, who chairs the Committee on Sustainability and Green Initiatives, will be with us to talk about what's percolating there, the constraints they face, and possible paths forward.
Also on the County front, local activist Helen Gerhardt will discuss how our current Home Rule Charter grants outsized powers to the Allegheny County Executive within the structures of local, regional, and even Commonwealth government - and how we might support checks and balances on those powers that so greatly impact environmental justice, health, development, housing, transit, food sovereignty, justice systems, incarceration, and many other critical human needs in our communities.
What's happening elsewhere? Faran Savitz, PennEnvironment's Zero Waste Advocate, will join us to share his research on what's happening where (and how!), and the resources that PennEnvironment can provide to local governments to help advance such bans, from up-to-date background information to model ordinances.
Looking forward to Sunday! In the meantime, some other items of note (followed by salon logistics):
• March 23: Energy efficiency for community buildings -- last month we talked about home energy efficiency; this webinar will look at how nonprofits and faith groups are improving their buildings. More information and registration here.
• March 28: Online legislative briefing with June Sekera on carbon removal. Register here.
• March 29: Learn more about environmental and health issues facing Pennsylvanians with PSR PA at a series of Town Hall events (in person and virtual) -- starting with Southeastern Pennsylvania but roving around the state, including Beaver (Apr 26) and Washington (date TBA) counties.
• March 30-31: Nonviolent direct action workshop with George Lakey and Veronica Coptis (at Slippery Rock University). Connect with other organizations and help generate campaigns! More information and registration here.
• April 1: Communitopia's Youth Climate Summit. More information and registration here.
• April 12: Last month we heard from PA State Rep Sara Innamorato about the bipartisan Whole Home Repair Act passed last year. Wouldn't it be great to have her energy and compassion in the Allegheny County Executive's office? Join other engaged citizens to hear from Sara at a fundraiser to help get her there!
• April 15, 16, 22, 23: Combine a forest stewardship activity with the creation of grapevine spheres, in honor of Earth Day. More info and registration here.
• April 19-22: Grow Pittsburgh and Allegheny County Conservation District will host a Free Soil Lead Screening for county residents. More info and registration here..
• May 11: Solarpunk Future: part job fair, part interactive art show. More information and registration here.
• Clean Air Council has set up a directed donation fund to help residents affected by the train derailment just over the Ohio border in East Palestine. You can contribute here to help fund needed resources for residents of easternmost Ohio and westernmost Pennsylvania.
• Closer to home, you can support striking Post-Gazette workers here (and consider signing up for the alternative online publication, the Pittsburgh Union Progress -- and maybe even cancel your P-G subscription until they start treating workers fairly!).
• And speaking of solidarity, the Cop City controversy is still raging in Atlanta. More information and a support fund are here. There's also talk of a similar facility in the works for Pittsburgh...
• PRC continues to hold online workshops about composting, rainwater harvesting, and waste reduction.
Feb 26: Sustainability Salon on Efficiency, Electrification, and the IRA
|Photo from Pixabay via Pexels.com|
To open our 12th year of salons, we'll start a short series inspired by some new legislation that will enable major environmental improvements, on a human scale. The 133rd Sustainability Salon on Sunday, February 26th (4 p.m. to 7 or so), will look at Energy (on March 26th, we'll be talking about Plastics).
As we know, in order to reduce the effects of climate change in the years (and centuries) ahead, humanity needs to escape our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to reduce our energy use (through conservation and energy efficiency), and we need to shift away from fossil carbon for the energy that we do use (electrification, combined with a move to renewables on the grid and in distributed installations). Since most air pollution comes from fossil fuel combustion, that'll mean better air quality, indoors and out! And although a great deal needs to happen in industry and public infrastructure, there are plenty of things that individuals can do to make this energy transition, and last year's passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the state Whole-Home Repair legislation can help make the up-front costs more affordable.
|IR image from a home energy audit; |
photo courtesy of Rhett Major
It also relates to the budgets of everyday people. Energy prices have risen sharply over the past year, hitting many households hard -- so it's even more important for low-income folks (both owners and renters) to have efficient homes to reduce their "energy burden" (known internationally as "fuel poverty"). Drafty doors, single-pane windows, and walls and attics lacking insulation all contribute to big bills and difficult living conditions -- but not everybody can afford the necessary renovations. State Representative Sara Innamorato, who proposed and pushed through the Whole-Home Repair program to address these concerns, will join us to talk about this statewide legislation -- which will enable low- and moderate-income homeowners and small landlords to make repairs and updates to homes across Pennsylvania, and create jobs in the process.
We'll also talk about Action Housing's program providing free home weatherization services to low-income Pittsburghers.
Even the most efficient homes use some energy; the key to shifting away from fossil energy sources is electrification. Over 40% of our energy-related emissions stem from decisions that Americans make around our kitchen tables -- what kind of transportation we use, how we heat the air and water in our homes, how we cook our food and dry our clothes. The only way to eliminate these emissions is to have our households run on machines with plugs, not pipes -- devices like heat pumps in place of furnaces or boilers, and induction stoves in place of gas. Some of our neighbors have managed to complete that process, detaching their homes completely from gas lines! We'll have a brief panel with some of the local folks who have done this (Kirsi Jansa, Lou Reynolds, Mark Dixon, and Christine Benner Dixon), sharing their experience and fielding your questions.
So how to pay for all these modifications? It just became a little easier, especially for lower-income residents and those in environmental justice areas. The federal Inflation Reduction Act, passed just last summer, will release $369 billion for "Energy Security and Climate Change" -- rolling out rebates, tax incentives, and other programs to help households conserve energy and to electrify. What is in these programs, and how can you take advantage of them? Dr. Lucyna de Barbaro, another former CCI staffer (who resides in a super-efficient Passive House) will outline the actions households can take (some now, some later in the year when more regulations are finalized) to reduce our contribution to global warming and our long-term energy costs. The IRA has been called the single largest investment in American history -- you can be a part of this change!
Please check back here for updates and additions -- in the meantime, some other items of note:
Clean Air Council has set up a directed donation fund to help residents affected by the train derailment just over the Ohio boarder. You can contribute here.
• Feb 15: Allegheny County Council sustainability committee hearing on plastic pollution (live and on Teams).
• Feb 16: Learn about the powers of the Allegheny County Executive in this webinar hosted by the Pittsburgh Green New Deal discussion group. 6:30-8; register here.
• Feb 18: Allegheny County Democratic candidate forum. 1. p.m. in CMU's McConomy Auditorium (in the University Center).
• Feb 19: Zoom panel on moving from environmental racism to environmental justice (7 p.m.). More information and registration here.
• Feb 19-26: A series of events in support of Cop City resistance efforts in Atlanta. Details here.
• Feb 21: Wild Ones Western PA hosts a virtual workshop on Winter Sowing, a practice using old milk/cider jugs as tiny greenhouses for easy seed-starting (7:30-8:30 on Facebook Live).
• Feb 23: Green Drinks with GASP (6-8 p.m. at Mary's Vine in Rankin; FB event here.)
• Feb 23: Book Launch for Patricia DeMarco's In the Footsteps of Rachel Carson (6-8 p.m. at Chatham; details and RSVP info are provided in this Allegheny Front interview.
• Mar 26: Sustainability Salon on plastics legislation
• Forests are threatened nationwide. Wildfires, fossil energy and petrochemical projects, and other development projects. Three more petitions:
• Tell the Forest Service to do its job and protect our forests from further fragmentation by gas pipelines. This will likely lead you to another petition, encouraging the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the same pipeline, the Mountain Valley, to cross waterways.
• Tell Atlanta to keep their promise to keep their biggest urban forest the centerpiece of their resilience plan, instead of a giant police and fire training facility (in the middle of a majority-Black community already dealing with environmental contamination as well as a long and troubled history with policing). More information at that site, and also in this article which looks at many different perspectives. Three Pittsburghers were arrested in the January 18th raid that also killed one other.
• Students at Shaler Area High School have partnered with the Allegheny Land Trust to protect open space in their community and enhance butterfly habitat with native plants. They've put together a fundraiser to help acquire a parcel of former farmland.
•. During the Climate Convergence in June, we placed a countdown Climate Clock in the Pennsylvania Capitol. We petitioned to make this installation permanent, and were largely successful!