Aug 29: Join the Shale Gas & Oil Health Registry

Join Sustainable Monroeville and the Environmental Health Project to learn about health impacts and and share your own experiences!  Document your health symptoms and potential exposures to contaminated air and water into the  secure on-line registry created by the EHN

Please bring your email address and a password for registration.  Help with sign-up will be available as needed.

10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Penn Area Library (2001 Municipal Court, Harrison City, PA 15636).  Beverages and light snacks will be served.   There's a Facebook event to let the organizers know you're coming.

August 25: March for Peace

March For Peace
A coalition of activists from the Thomas Merton Center and several different social and political advocacy groups will meet in Oakland for a rally in Schenley Plaza, followed by a march through the streets ending at Carnegie Mellon University.  The march route includes several stops that represent local hubs of the military-industrial complex.
Although we understand that the U.S. is not technically “at war” with another country right now, a march like this is more necessary than ever.  The US military budget now stands at $700 billion, which amounts to 54% of all discretionary spending.  It is at its highest since 1945 in constant dollars, exceeding military spending during the Cold War and the Korean and Vietnam wars. 
The US spends more money on its military than the combined total of the next 10 biggest-spending nations, including China, Russia, India, Saudi Arabia, Britain and France, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.  Russia's military budget is about a tenth of America's, yet Russia is supposed to represent a top national security threat to the US. Cutbacks in healthcare, housing, education, roads, and bridges are necessary to feed the military machine.  Other consequences are wage reduction and increasing poverty and inequality.

The US is involved in wars and violent conflicts in the Koreas, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yeman, Somalia, Mali, and other nations.  Increased funding is being allocated for the modernization of nuclear weapons. The US is also violating international law on its border with Mexico in its inhumane treatment of refugees and has militarized law enforcement domestically.  Our cities and schools have experienced record killings from gun violence.  We believe that these causes, and the fight for a world beyond war, are NOT separate issues.

10:30 a.m. at Schenley Plaza (rally followed by march).  For more information, call the Thomas Merton Center at 412-361-3022.

Aug 18: Free soil lead screening

Come join the Allegheny County Conservation District and Grow Pittsburgh at the Garden Resource Center, bring us a dry soil sample in a small ziploc bag, and have your soil screened for lead instantly!  Understanding the presence of lead is essential for safe gardening and children's play areas.  

ACCD staff will give you the results and explain what they mean, as well as what you can do to lower risk.  

11 a.m. - 2 p.m. at Grow Pittsburgh's Garden Resource Center (147 Putnam St. 15206).  For more information, visit the ACCD's facebook page or contact Jonathan at or 412-291-8017.  

Aug 11: 79th Sustainability Salon

The 79th Sustainability Salon will take place on August 11th.  In a departure from our usual format of talks and discussion focused on a single topic, this month we'll have more informal, free-flowing conversation.  It's the annual No-Topic Salon, where I don't have to interrupt the conversations for the presentations!  Overall event timing remains the same, but I won't rearrange the furniture as for a regular salon.  And if the Right Folks turn up (you know who you are!), we'll have a bit more time for music after the potluck supper.   

As the salon follows close on the heels of the Rethinking Plastics forum that morning (and the recent Climate Reality Bus Tour of the Ohio River Valley -- photos here), this will be a great opportunity for continuing discussion of an issue of great import to our region!  Forum organizers Mrea Csorba and Mark Dixon will be here, getting down to brass tacks on how we can limit the use of single-use plastics here in Pittsburgh.  I encourage folks to attend the Forum as well, if you can -- but be sure to RSVP for that, especially if you hope to take part in the lunch!

Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We usually start the program not long after 4pm, after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site -- but this time there is no program, so come hang out!   Please email me (at maren dot cooke at gmail dot com) 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 with salon in the subject line 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 a trail map 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 (see below), 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, it's a mini-conference, it's a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues, it's a house party with an environmental theme.  We usually have featured speakers on various aspects of a particular topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening.
Past topics have included greening businessgreenwashing, the petrochemical buildout in our region, climate/nature/peoplefracking, health, & actionglobalizationecological ethicscommunity inclusionair quality monitoringinformal gatherings that turn out to have lots of speakersgetting STEM into Congresskeeping Pittsburgh's water publicShell's planned petrochemical plantvisualizing air quality, the City of Pittsburgh's sustainability initiativesfossil energy infrastructure, getting money out of politicscommunity solar power and the Solarize Allegheny program, the Paris climate negotiations (beforeduring, and after), air quality (again, with news on the autism connection), reuse (of things and substances), neighborhood-scale food systems, other forms of green community revitalizationsolar powerclimate changeenvironmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projectsenvironmental journalismgrassroots actionMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, more solar powertrees and park stewardshipalternative energy and climate policyregional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (often led by filmmakers) over the winter with films on Food SystemsClimate Adaptation and MitigationPlastic Paradise, Rachel Carson and the Power Of One VoiceTriple Divide on fracking, You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous GameA Fierce Green FireSustainability Pioneersfilms on consumptionLiving DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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:  wine, hard or sweet cider (the latter we can mull if you like), juice, tea, whatever.  The more the merrier!  Local fare is always particularly welcome, whether homemade or boughten.  Dishes containing meat or dairy are fine, though if it isn't really obvious please make a note of it.  We refill a bunch of growlers at East End and provide a big batch of mostly-homegrown pesto (cheesy and vegan), and other things as needed.  More details will come after you RSVP (hint, hint!). 

If you haven't been here before, you may enjoy checking out our roof garden and solar installation (and now apiary!) as well as the many other green and interesting things around our place.  

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. 

Aug 11: Rethinking Plastic forum

Keynote Speaker: 
     Patricia DeMarco, local environmental scientist & author of 
Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh 

Panel Discussion led by filmmaker Mark Dixon with 

     Myrna Newman , director of Allegheny Cleanwayson Waste Management & Recycling

     Doug Shields, Food & Water Watch, on the l
ocal connection: Fracking/Cracking & Plastics

     Dianne Peterson, activist & owner of Our Children Our Earth on Sustainable Alternatives

11-2 p.m. at the Wilkins School Community Center (7604 Charleston Ave. 15218 (in Regent Square).  Free and open to the public, but please register by email to   Light lunch included.

A selection of Eco- friendly products from 
Our Children Our Earth will be available for purchase.

Remember to RSVP at and you can also touch base on Facebook.