May 31, June 28, July 26: Pittsburgh Open Streets and City Spree

What if you could close down a city street, and use it for a few hours of good, healthy, family fun?

You’d have OpenStreetsPGH. Come down and join us to walk, run, bike and skate through the streets of Pittsburgh. It’s a whole new way to look at and experience your city. And a whole new way to have fun with your friends and family.

Take a look at our route map to see just how much fun you can pack into three-and-a-half miles from Downtown to the Strip District to Lawrenceville!

Want to play a larger role in OpenStreetsPGH? Be a sponsor or an event day volunteer. Learn how you can get involved in making sure each Sunday this summer is as fun as it can be!

City Spree, a map-based run that has taken place here the past two years, is an organizer.  City Spree is a city-wide race...without a course.  Runners and walkers create their own path through the city to discover its secret places and hidden gems.  Individuals and groups are welcome, as racers compete on speed, distance, and cleverness--as long as they make it back in time.  The City Spree is now part of Open Streets!  Join CS to run through sections of Butler, Penn, and Smallman Street as they're closed to motorized traffic the morning of May 31, and explore even more of the city as you create your own course along sidewalks and trails.  Many of the checkpoints are within the OpenStreets corridors, but there are several outside of those areas as well. 

Find out more and register online at

May 23-25 & 30-31: Plant sales

Putting Down Roots plant sales:
Spring has sprung!   I'll be available here on Saturday May 23rd, Sunday the 24th, and Monday the 25th and then again on May 30 & 31st from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  I've grown 40 varieties of tomatoes, brassicas (broccoli, kales, collards, cauliflowers and the like), cucurbits (cukes, squash, and such), herbs, and flowers from seed this winter and spring -- and will also have transplants of various perennials from ferns to sweet woodruff as well as black raspberries, strawberries, many members of the mint family, and lots more.  Also CobraHead gardening tools, perfect for rooting out plants-in-the-wrong-place (often referred to as "weeds").  And black gold, also known as worm castings, from Full Circle Soil in Hazelwood, in 2# and 5# bags.
If you'd like to come over, it would be great if you can let me know (by email to maren dot cooke at gmail dot com, with "plants" in the Subject line).  Among other things, I need your email to send you Directions & Other Info.  Also, if you are interested in particular things and let me know in advance, I can try to have them ready -- some of the perennials, especially, I'm digging as needed.  Times outside these hours are also possible;  just contact me and we can set up a time!  

May 22-25: Heartwood Forest Council


2015 Heartwood Forest Council:  Holding the Circle, Tending the Heart
Celebrate 25 extraordinary years of Heartwood at the Lazy Black Bear
Detailed schedule, photos of previous years' events, and lots more information here;  online registration here.  
For 25 years, Heartwood has coordinated vital campaigns for forest protection, launched dynamic new organizations, gathered activists together for education and enjoyment in beautiful places, and built a community of people across the hardwood region who help each other to protect the places they love.
Though the organization has changed over time, the Heartwood circle remains, connecting us through friendship and commitment like the long, tangled skeins of mycelia that hold our forests together.
On Memorial Day weekend, join us to celebrate Heartwood and to envision the powerful possibilities that the future holds.
Featuring:-Inspiring speakers from across the Heartwood region
-25 Years of Heartwood Chefs:  Fabulous meals created by an amazing team of the best Heartwood chefs from the past 25 years
-Music!  On stage, in the talent show, around the campfire, anywhere at any time, and in one rowdy, joyful parade.
Plan to stay late! On Monday afternoon, Heartwood will host an organizing session to protect all National Forests. We are inviting individuals from across the country to join in building a legislative platform that our local and regional efforts can support and promote. In celebration of last year’s 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and next year’s 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service, we hope to empower a vision that can do our land honor and justice.
DIRECT ACTION! A weekend-long Direct Action training will run concurrently with the Forest Council. Get hands on experience with various types of direct actions to fight extraction! All ages and experiences levels welcome! Pre-registration is suggested for the Direct Action track. For more information, email

May 17: Empowering Communities for a Healthy Tomorrow (part 3)

Empowering Communities: Part 3 
Environmental Exposures and the Links to Reproductive Health

Latest scientific findings have linked many environmental exposures to reproductive health, including air pollution and endocrine disrupting chemicals, just to name a few.  As part of WHE's maternal and child health programming, we are pleased to bring Dr. Marya Zlatnik, MD, MMS to Pittsburgh to speak about these connections between environmental toxins and reproductive health.

Dr. Zlatnik is Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences at UCSF, and a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist, with clinical expertise in ultrasound and the diagnosis of fetal anomalies.  She has a long-standing interest in environmental toxins and their effect on pregnancy.  She is a member of UCSF's Program in Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), as well as the associate director of UCSF's fellowship in Maternal Fetal Medicine.  In 2014, she joined the University of California San Francisco's Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (UCSF PEHSU) as Associate Director, Maternal Fetal Health and the Environment Program.  

7 - 9 p.m.  (doors open 6:30) at the Carnegie Science Center's Science Stage (One Allegheny Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212).  This is the first of a three-part series.  Register online for one ($10) or all three ($25) events.

May 16: Freedom from Fracking benefit concert and festival

Freedom From Fracking: Clean Air, Water & Energy is a festival to benefit victims of fracking and those raising awareness of the dangers of fracking -- while educating the public on clean, green energy alternatives.

Don't believe the hype!  The gas companies' propaganda will have you believe fracking is safe.  Meanwhile thousands of families struggle to live after their water has been poisoned and they suffer from a myriad of health issues caused by fracking. 

Meet victims of fracking and learn about viable clean energy alternatives you can begin implementing now- for a day of community building, educational solutions, and powerful music of a variety of genres.  Fracking affects all people- of every age, sex, race, and economic background.  We all must unite to protect our future!

5 p.m. to midnight at Mr. Smalls Theatre (400 Lincoln Ave., 15209).  Proceeds will benefit The Friends of the Harmed.  Advance tickets: general admission $30, VIP $40;  day-of tickets #35/$45.  Purchase tickets online here
 This is a 21+ event, sponsored by
 Pittsburgh City Paper.

Featuring 6 hours of music across 3 stages:
Rusted Root
Free Song Download:

Mike Stout & The Human Union

Kellee Maize & Friends:

UJAMAA Collective

Anne Feeney

Smokestack Lightning

DJ Paul Dang

Liz Berlin

Gene Stovall

Jasiri X

Palermo Stone of RARE Nation

Vanessa German

The Benevolent Sneaky Mike

Tom Breiding

May 14: Inspire lecture on Happy Cities

Charles Montgomery, urban experimentalist and author of Happy City, believes that happiness should be a city’s primary goal for its residents. His research and experiments have shown that trust and positive social connections are imperative ingredients for urban happiness. But U.S. cities have been “designing social connections out of our lives” for the past half-century.

As populations grow and cities become more dense, Montgomery asks: How can we build more sociability, and thus more happiness, into cities of the future? What kinds of choices would residents make if we felt more trust and empathy towards our neighbors? What other goals can we meet – like strengthening our economies or combating climate change – if we prioritize happiness?

We’ll explore these questions and more with Charles Montgomery at the season finale of Green Building Alliance’s Inspire Speakers Series. Charles will be joined on stage by Chris Koch, CEO of the Design Center. Where Charles offers examples and experiments from happy cities around the world, Koch offers local opportunities for addressing happiness through the lenses of sustainability, equity, and livability.

5 – 8 p.m. in the Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium at Hill House Kaufmann Center, 1825 Centre Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.  Doors open at 5 p.m. to enjoy food, beer, wine, networking, and music.  Presentations begin at 6 p.m.  Tickets are $20.  If this does not fit your budget, please contact us and we can arrange for a discounted rate.  Learn more and register here.

May 7: Biophilia on environmental artist Ann Rosenthal

ATRHeadPic.jpgEnvironmental artists and educator Ann Rosenthal will be giving a talk on environmental art at the next Biophilia Meetup at Phipps.

Environmental Art: Igniting Awareness and Action

In parallel with the environmental movement sparked by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, artists have addressed a wide range of environmental concerns, including pollution, biodiversity, and climate change.  Such work crosses disciplines and takes diverse forms to raise awareness, ignite biophilia, and provoke action.  In this presentation, Pittsburgh environmental artist and educator Ann Rosenthal will provide a sampling of this exciting field to demonstrate how artists are taking the lead to reclaim compromised ecosystems and promote sustainability.  Pittsburgh has become a center and model of environmental art from the restoration of Nine Mile Run to current projects in Larimer, which Ann will discuss along with her own work.  In addition, she will highlight precursors to contemporary environmental art, including landscape painting and 20th century Land Art.  Ann received her MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and has taught numerous courses on environmental art in Pittsburgh, the eastern U.S., and online.  Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S., in Germany and Japan.  Ann’s essays and other work have been published in several journals and anthologies.  She owns an industrial building in Pittsburgh where she works and directs LOCUS – a creative commons where art, community and ecology meet (See more at 

 5:30-7 p.m. at Phipps Conservatory's Center for Sustainable Landscapes.  You can sign up for the Pittsburgh Biophilia list here.

May 2: Sustainability Salon on Turning Waste Into Resources (Part 1, Things)

One (wo)man's trash is another's treasure.   Or, at least, useful item!   Reclaiming, reusing, redistributing, rejuvenating, salvaging, upcycling, composting...  that's what we'll be talking about at the 40th & 41st Sustainability Salons on May 2nd and June 20th.  Between the two events, we'll be hearing from organizations leading the way in this realm including Construction Junction, the Pittsburgh Center for Creative ReuseGlobal Links,  412 Food RescueSteel City Soils, Eco-Soap Bank, and more.  Please RSVP if you might come (either via Eventbrite or via email with Salon in the Subject line) -- and remember that it's a potluck;  please bring food and/or drink to share!  Lots more information below:

In celebration of the imminent completion of our main staircase (mostly made of leftover materials from other parts of the house -- and replacing the old odd-shaped stairs, which never worked for our house post-renovation and which have now been collected by Construction Junction for a new life somewhere else), we'll focus this Sustainability Salon on Things.  Are you interested in finding out what's being done all over town with all sorts of Things, where to find Things of your own, and what to do with your Things when you're done with them but they're still usable?  We'll welcome Mike Gable, the executive director of Construction Junction, Pittsburgh's amazing building materials salvage emporium (where many of our Things came from, and to which quite a few other Things went to find new homes).  I'll talk about some of the components of our house, taken from homes all over the region of different eras, and Vince Finizio, the architect with whom I worked to plan our unusual renovation, will be here to share his insights as well.  Going smaller in scale, we'll hear from Erika Johnson (executive director of the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse), which encourages creativity, resource conservation, and community engagement.  And we'll have Kathleen Hower, co-founder and executive director of Global Links, which takes surplus medical supplies and equipment to places where they're really needed (currently Nepal is at the top of the list).

Next month, we'll look at less discrete stuff like food and soil and soap, more "substances" than "things".

I note that May 2nd is the same date as the second annual Pete Seeger tribute concert and sing, but that'll be in the evening, so folks who'd like to attend both events should be able to do so (I was mostly sad that I'll have to miss the other event!).

Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We'll aim to start the program sometime around 4, 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.  

As always, 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 green community revitalizationsolar 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 Rachel Carson and the Power Of One VoiceSustainability Pioneersfilms on consumptionLiving DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfood, and more food (a recurrent theme;  with California running out of water, we'd better gear up to produce a lot more of our own!).

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. 

May 2: Sing Out for Pete 2

Second Annual Singalong/Concert in honor of Pete Seeger

Building from our incredibly successful event last year, you’re invited you to join the Thomas Merton Center and many local musicians for a night of fun, singing and companionship in the spirit of Pete Seeger and peace and social justice! 

Featured artists and song leaders include Mike Stout, Vanessa German, Tom Breiding, Temujin, the NewLanders, and Steve Pellegrino.

7:30 p.m. at the First Unitarian Church (Morewood and Ellsworth Avenues in Oakland/Shadyside — 605 Morewood Drive, 15213).  $5 admission, but kids are free and encouraged to attend!  Please register online here.  

For more information, contact Diane McMahon at the Thomas Merton Center, by email or at 412-361-3022