Nov 22: Sustainability Salon on Revitalizing Communities

The 34th Putting Down Roots Sustainability Salon  (see below if that's new to youwill take place on Nov 22nd (3-10 p.m.).  Please be sure to RSVP if you might come (email Maren with "salon" in the Subject line).  The next Sustainability Salon will be on December 13th, kicking off our third wintertime environmental film series.  General information and links to past Salon topics are below -- and you can always find information about this and many other environmental and social justice events on MarensList.  Upcoming dates include educational events along with practical opportunities for activism and advocacy on sewer ratesair quality, and mountaintop removal financing.
At past Sustainability Salons, we've talked about green building, renewable energy, watershed health and green infrastructure, trees and parks, local food systems, community-building, green jobs, and social justice.  For the November salon, we'll bring it all together and talk about green, equitable community revitalization -- in terms of global concepts, and also with a close look at some local efforts.  We'll be joined by architect and local EcoDistricts leader Christine Mondor of EvolveEA, Millvale teacher Brian Wolovich (cofounder of the Millvale Community Library), and Larimer activist Fred Brown of the Kingsley Association.  We'll also have Elisa Beck of Sustainable Monroeville and Schwartz Living Market, who is working to link urban and suburban communities through planned Forest Gardens and other initiatives.  Additional speakers are in the works, so check back here!

The 2014 Grosvenor Report ranked Pittsburgh as the most resilient US city and number five in the world. To determine this, they assessed the vulnerability of our physical environment and our city's capacity to adapt or transform to challenges to the physical environment. This dual emphasis is a great lens to view neighborhoods and smaller towns--the scale where we are most likely to plan and take action. 

To become more resilient, communities need to think about the 'hardware' of the physical environment and the 'software' of community capacity. Ecodistricts are a way of thinking about community resiliency and revitalization. Ecodistricts define environmental, social, and economic goals which can only be achieved by addressing our physical environment as well as our ability to take action. Ecodistricts challenge our sense of  urban revitalization as simply design and construction projects--ecodistricts are an ongoing process that shapes a community's capacity as well as  their environment. 

3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We'll aim to introduce speakers beginning around 4 p.m., after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.   Please email me with salon in the Subject line to RSVP (yes or maybe), or click on the link in your EventBrite invitation (if you're not already on my list, please email me to be added!).  Please RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, attendance varies widely, and these events have been so successful that we need to begin limiting attendance.  So RSVP early if you can, to ensure your participation!  The free virtual "tickets" on Eventbrite may run out (you don't need to print any tickets, by the way, just be on the list).  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 on Friday or Saturday.  Be sure to include salon in the Subject line, as I receive a ridiculous amount of email every day.  And if you're new, please let me know how you heard about the Salons!

Bring food and/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.  And if you aren't yet on my list, if you're interested in Sustainability Salons (and our occasional house concert, simply contact me and I'll put you on my email list.  

Note once again that I'll be sending out directions and such, and any late-breaking info, to all the RSVP'd folks by the morning of the salon if not before.  So if you don't have it yet, please be patient! One of these days I'll streamline this process a bit, but for now it takes a while to to dot all my i's and cross all my t's.  (All the extraneous requests for the address don't help;  I have lots of other stuff I send out with it, but don't like to let them go unanswered so it adds hours to my prep time.  If you RSVP properly (see above), you should get the info by the morning of the salon!)

For the uninitiated, a Sustainability Salon is an educational forum;  a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues;  a house party with an environmental theme.  We usually have featured speakers on various aspects of a topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.

Past topics have included solar powerclimate changeenvironmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projectsenvironmental journalismgrassroots actioncommunity solar powerMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, more solar powertrees and park stewardshipalternative energy and climate policy, regional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (led by filmmakers) over the winter with Living DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and foodfoodfoodfood, and more food.
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 or dairy 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. 

Nov 22: The Lost Bird Project at CMNH

Film screening, book-signing, question and answer session

The Lost Bird Project is a film about a hopeful response to the tragedy of modern extinction. The hour-long documentary charts the efforts of artist Todd McGrain to immortalize five North American birds that are no longer part of our landscape’s living fabric; the Passenger Pigeon, Carolina Parakeet, Labrador Duck, Great Auk, and Heath Hen.  “These birds are not commonly known,” McGrain says, “and they ought to be, because forgetting is another kind of extinction.” 

The film follows the road-trip taken by McGrain and his brother-in-law Andy Stern, as they search for the locations where each species was last seen in the wild and negotiate for permission to install McGrain’s large bronze sculpture of the now-extinct bird there.  The book, of the same title, was published in September.

The Lost Bird Project pays homage to author Christopher Cokinos for his book, Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, and in choosing that title the author honors Emily Dickinson by borrowing the opening line from her Poem 254.

1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.  Free with museum admission.  For more information, contact Patrick McShea.

The Lost Bird Project is currently being shown twice a week in the Earth Theater at Carnegie Museum of Natural History - beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, and beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturdays.  These film screenings are among several Pittsburgh-area events and exhibitions marking the centenary of the Passenger Pigeon’s extinction. Please see for a complete listing of related programs.

Nov 20: Advocacy opportunity at ALCOSAN meeting

Customers Urged to Attend the ALCOSAN Board Meeting and Demand a Less Costly Green Solution to the Sewage/Stormwater Overflow Problem

To ALCOSAN customers who want 'green' solutions in order to to avoid much higher water/sewage bills for Allegheny County's largest public works project ever.

The Clean Rivers Campaign urges you to attend the public meeting of the ALCOSAN Executive Board on Thursday. The Board is responsible for delivering safe drinking water to most of the residents of Allegheny County. The Board is also obliged under a Consent Decree with the Federal EPA to reduce the contamination of our rivers by overflowing sewage when storms hit our area. ALCOSAN’s initial proposal involving huge tunnel construction and other ‘grey’ solutions was dismissed by the EPA in January 2014.  That proposal would have cost ALCOSAN’S customers at least two billion dollars.

4:30 to 6:00 pm at 3300 Preble Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233.  (412) 766-4810

Among other measures, the Clean Rivers Campaign demands that the ALCOSAN Board reject reliance on massive ‘grey’ solutions to the combined sewer overflow problem and turn instead to a host of ‘green solutions’ that will cost less, provide full-time careers for residents, and will enhance the quality of neighborhoods.

For more information contact Jennifer at

Nov 19: Shenango Coke and the Health Department

The Allegheny County Health Department and Allegheny County Clear Air Now will hold a meeting to hear from residents affected by the Shenango coke plant on Neville Island, which is the largest single-source polluter affecting Pittsburgh.  Come on out and be heard -- the more people attend, the more pressure will be felt by the Health Department to take stronger action.  The program will include background on the plant and its emissions, updates on recent violations and enforcement actions, health impacts in the region, and further actions under consideration.

6 p.m. at the Ben Avon Community Presbyterian Church (7501 Church Avenue, Pittsburgh 15202).  For more information, email Tom.

Nov 18: Town Hall Meeting on Sewer Rate Fairness

Don't you think you should have a say in how your sewage fees are spent?
We are required to spend BILLIONS of dollars and are facing major rate hikes to fix our sewer system to get sewage out of our rivers.  We all want clean water, but we also want the rates we pay to be invested wisely and fairly! So join us on November 18th.
Join us to discuss how ratepayers can get maximum benefits for the money we invest, make sure everyone pays their fair share, and protect our neighbors and our health by implementing a Customer Assistance Program.
It's our responsibility to ensure that public investments in infrastructure create economic opportunities and healthy communities for generations to come.  Join us and make your voice heard!
  • Who:  Ratepayers and the Clean Rivers Campaign
  • What:  Town Hall Meeting for Ratepayer Fairness
  • When:  Tuesday, November 18th, 7pm
  • Where:  First Presbyterian Church - 320 6th Avenue, Downtown
Get more details (including a map) and RSVP here.

Nov 17: Permaculture talk

Evening Presentation and Open Talk, presented by Pittsburgh Permaculture and Schwartz Living Market.

Join us as Dan Halsey discusses using microclimates to solve problems in urban systems. 

Permaculture design is systems thinking. Everything is in a relationship and defined by its relationships. Plants and harvest crops thrive when provided with the correct relationships in the soil and above ground with beneficial habitat. The urban landscape offers many opportunities to develop intensive fruit tree/ shrub polycultures and innovative solutions to growing annual crops. Learn about these unique systems. 

Presentation will be followed with an open discussion of local issues, solutions and Dan’s traveling experiences. 

7 p.m. at Schwartz Living Market, 1317 E Carson on the South Side.  $10 per person, pay at the door;  free parking behind the Market.  For more information, contact: or and visit

Nov 16: Farm to Table Harvest Tasting

The 3rd Annual Farm to Table Harvest Tasting is a casual gathering that allows consumers to experience first-hand the quality and diversity of locally grown, produced and prepared food. 
We will have over 60 local food vendors including farms, chefs, food producers, brewers, wineries, distilleries, bakeries and food retailers.

This is a great event to meet local Pittsburghers who value their food and are excited to learn how to access local food and beverages. The atmosphere is relaxing: music and local food conversation abounds.

3-7 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Public Market AND Wigle Whiskey in the Strip District.  All ages; $10.00 - $25.00.  Get tickets exclusively with ShowClix: .

Nov 14-17: Adobe Illustrator for landscape design

Learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to complete your garden and landscape designs. Adobe Illustrator (AI) will allow you to create beautiful designs that are easily changed and updated. The course will go through the design process using AI tools. Topics include: resources and layout for base map creation, using access and contours to create functional spaces and plant patches, constructing plant guilds, placing plant symbols and more.

Cost: $400, includes course fee (travel expenses for teacher), refreshments during course

For more detailed information and to register, contact Pittsburgh Permaculture:> , 724-531-1100.

Requirements: Laptop with mouse, Adobe Illustrator software ($20/month)

Daniel Halsey is a certified permaculture designer and teacher for the Permaculture Research Institute, Australia. Daniel graduate from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science degree in Temperate Climate Polyculture Design and a Masters of Professional Studies in Horticuture. He has co-authored three books on sustainable design including Integrated Forest Gardening, 2014.

Dan is the director of PRI/USA, a non-profit service organization.

Teaching Experience:
Teaching Specialist, University of Minnesota
PRI/AU Certified International Instructor and Designer
Haiti Permaculture PDC, Kobanal and Gonaive 2012-13
Permaculture in Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
Homestead and Landscape Design Workshop, Milwaukee and Victoria, B.C.
Digital and Internet Resources for Permaculture Design,
Permaculture in Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Co-Author Integrated Forest Gardening, Chelsea Green 2014
Catch and Store Principles, Permaculture Magazine, UK, Fall 2009
Polyculture Design, Friends School Editorial, 2009
Co – Author, Graphic Design and Sustainability, Wiley Press Release 2009
Permaculture in Package Design, Package Design Magazine, Dec, 2008
Co – Author, Packaging Sustainability, Wiley Press Release 2008 

Nov 14: Construction, diesel, pollution, and health

Creating Healthier Campuses, Workplaces, and Communities by Minimizing Diesel Emissions

Construction activity is a part of our everyday lives.  Diesel construction equipment is essential to creating new structures for our students, employees, and the public.  But dirty equipment pollutes the air and creates hazardous conditions for workers and nearby communities.  The good news? Thencology and strategies exist and are being empoyed in many places to help minimize diesel pollutiaon and the health risks to your students, employees, and the general public.  Learn what your institution or company can do to minimize diesel pollution and create a healthier environment to live, work, and play in.

Our panel of local experts include representatives from Chatham University , Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Allegheny County Health Department, Sota Construction, PJ Dick, and Group Against Smog and Pollution.

8-9:30 a.m. at Chatham University's Eddy Theater (registration begins at 7:45).  Light breakfast fare will be provided.  For more information and to register, go to  Attendees are welcome to park in the JKM Library Lot.  

Nov 13: Inspire lecture on Water

For the Love of Water:  Dr. Wallace J. Nichols, Lisa Schroeder, and Dr. Molly Mehling will explore the following questions to inspire the audience about the many aspects of water and how it contributes to our environmental, social, economic, and human health:
How does being in, near, or under water make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do?
What role can the visual arts play in helping us to understand and fall in love with water?
How do our region’s water quality, water access, and riverfronts contribute to creating a most livable place for all?
How can sustainable waterfront development transform Pittsburgh?

Dr. Wallace “J” Nichols became enthralled by nature at an early age, and earned his PhD in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Arizona’s School of Renewable Natural Resources. Nichols’ recent work has made him a pioneer in the green world, combining environmental activism with neuroscience in a field he calls “neuroconservation,” which explores the effect of nature on the human mind.  Nichols is a gripping speaker (see his TED Talk here) and a New York Times best-selling author.

Lisa Millspaugh Schroeder is President and Chief Executive Officer of Riverlife: a non-profit organization with the mission to reclaim, restore, and promote Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.  Schroeder has been a featured speaker at international conferences in Lisbon, Naples, and Toronto, advocating for the power of sustainable waterfront development to transform cities.  She was awarded the AIA Gold Medal in 2012 and was recognized as an Outstanding Woman in Business by the Pittsburgh Business Times (2011).

Dr. Molly Mehling is an aquatic and landscape research ecologist working to develop and implement well-designed, community-engaged projects that improve the ecosystem of our city for all of its inhabitants.  She merges scientific research with visual arts to improve our intertwined land and water systems.  Mehling is a professor in the Falk School of Sustainability at Chatham University.  She serves on many community organizations and offers workshops for using the visual arts in science and sustainability.

5-8 p.m. at the Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium at the Hill House Kaufmann Center, 1825 Centre Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.  Registration $20, but if the designated ticket price does not fit your budget, email Jenna Cramer for a reduced price or scholarship).  ACT 48 credits provided for educators.  More information and online registration here.

Gather at 5 p.m. to enjoy delicious appetizers, complimentary beer and wine, music, and great networking!  Lectures begin at 6 p.m.  Coffee and dessert will be served from 8 – 9 p.m. for attendees interested in engaging in more discussion and networking.  A book signing with Dr. Wallace J Nichols will immediately follow the presentations at 8 p.m.

Check out this highlight reel of the entire Inspire Speakers Series events to date!
Join the event on Facebook! Check us out at #inspirespeakerspgh

Upcoming Inspire lectures:  Thursday, December 11th featuring Jeremy Rifkin, an internationally-renowned writer and consultant who has written 19 books uniting topics as far-ranging as economic development, environmental sustainability, global politics, and technological innovation, andWilliam Generett Jr., President and CEO of Urban Innovation21, a regional public-private economic development partnership that works to ensure that all communities are connected to our region’s innovation economy.  Learn more and register.

Nov 13: Green Drinks with ESW

This month's Green Drinks will feature Engineers for a Sustainable World.  Come hear about projects from the Pitt and Robert Morris chapters of Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) – rain gardens, solar smoothie carts, and K-12 outreach – hear from Executive Director Alex Dale (a transplant Pittsburgher), and get involved with starting a professional chapter in Pgh!
There's no need to be an engineer - we work with everyone, and are always looking for new partners. As always, there will also be plenty of time for general networking! 

5-8 p.m. at The Porch at Schenley (221 Schenley Drive, 15213).

Nov 13: Eco-Art Pgh student art contest

The Office of State Senator Jim Ferlo, and Ziggy Sawdust, are proud to present "Eco Art PGH: Visions of a Sustainable Pittsburgh".  This student art contest will feature works of art in a variety of mediums reflecting the theme of a futuristic, sustainable Pittsburgh. 

The reception will take place on Thursday, November 13th, from 7-10pm at the Pittsburgh Opera, 2425 Liberty Avenue in the Strip District. 

Tickets are available at .

All proceeds will benefit Pittsburgh Green Innovators and the Larimer Green Team.  Event ticket price includes admission, complimentary beer, wine, and light refreshments.  Live music and educational materials from a variety of are organizations will also be featured.  Student artists will be given the opportunity to sell their own works to help further their artistic careers.

Nov 12: Lunch talk on sustainability and the social services

The University of Pittsburgh's School of Social Work presents Paul Sheldon, Senior Advisor, and Planting Justice, Development Consultant, Insight Garden Program. 

The conversation will revolve around sustainability. In attendance will be various supporters and team members who, with Mr. Sheldon, formed a new transformational housing and workforce development model for individuals with barriers to employment. 

This is a great opportunity to engage in conversation with leaders in the sustainability and social justice arenas!

12-1:30 p.m. in the Cathedral of Learning in Oakland (room 2017).  No registration required;  lunch will be provided.