Mar 25: Plastic Paradise screening

What plastics are doing to our oceans and sea creatures and our own bodies, other reasons why plastic production is problematic, and what we can do to lessen the damage.

7-9 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer (5700 Forbes Ave. 15217, in Squirrel Hill).

Mar 23: Sustainability Salon on Existing Nuclear

The 86th Sustainability Salon will complete our two-month pairing on "Nuclear Surprises."  Surprising, because many environmentalists would not have considered ever supporting nuclear, but might just do so after our discussions!  In February, we learned about advanced small-scale nuclear technologies addressing most of our concerns about conventional nuclear:  they're incapable of melting down, and instead of burning fuel that has to be mined, transported, refined, and kept safe from diversion into weaponry along the way, some versions can burn existing nuclear waste.   
This time, we'll be looking at the here and now, when many nuclear power plants are failing to compete in an era of cheap gas.  However, if they're shut down then more gas plants will be built (which will be in operation for many decades, compounding climate damage).  Some states are considering keeping them online for a while while we transition to renewables -- another kind of "bridge fuel".  Might Pennsylvania do this?  Come to the March salon and find out!
Speakers will include Tom Schuster, a senior organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, will introduce the issue:  two of PA's five nuclear power plants have announced plans to retire, and there is an effort underway in Harrisburg to prevent that from happening, as some other states have done.  Can we decarbonize our energy system without nuclear?  What are the environmental trade-offs?  And what climate policies are realistic to enact in the current political climate in Harrisburg?
Michael Roth has done detailed analysis of the economics of this proposal, in terms of dollar cost per ton of avoided CO2 compared to the social cost of carbon. 
Local policymaker/scholar/author/activist Patricia DeMarco will talk about the known and emerging genetic concerns surrounding nuclear power, and the ethical problem of pursuing or expanding use of technology for which there is no waste solution.  
Instead of our usual sequential talks and discussions on different aspects of an issue, this time we'll have a panel discussion to allow for some more comprehensive conversation around this topic.  Kate Fissell, volunteer for 350 Pittsburgh and Ready For 100, will moderate our discussion.

Following the talks and discussion, and returning to our recurrent theme of plastics -- a major health and environmental issue as the petrochemical hub invades our region -- we’ve initiated a monthly dinner-table conversation for those interested in how to avoid pervasive single-use plastics (SUPs), and how advocacy may be able to limit regional impacts.  Quite a few local initiatives (No Plastics Please, What's SUP, SUPless Mondays, etc.), and this is a great place to connect with them!

The April salon, yet to be scheduled, will focus on food.  As always, you can browse around MarensList for more events the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival will include a talk on the climate crisis;  you can learn how to evaluate water quality in a water monitoring workshop or how to advocate for stronger protection in a water activism training and lobbying session.  On the plastics front, another film screening -- Plastics Paradise (which many salongoers joined us for two years ago) will soon be shown again in Squirrel Hill.  Look out for an event on April 3rd with Ed Fallon, the instigator of the Great March for Climate Action back in 2014.  And while the Young Voices for the Planet film series (inspiring shorts about kid-activists) didn't make it into our winter film series this year due to logistical considerations, I want to make sure that folks -- especially educators -- know about the workshops happening here this spring.  The next one is on April 28th at Phipps.  Teachers can earn Act 48 credits, and informal educators will find this workshop valuable as well!  

Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We generally 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.  After the talks and discussion (hopefully by around 7:30), we break for a potluck supper.  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 advanced nuclear technologiespassenger and freight trainsconsumption, plastics, and pollutionair qualitysolar poweryouth activismgreening 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. 

Mar 23: Water activist training/lobby day

March 22nd is World Water Day - a day when water activists from all over the world come together to work towards water justice. To celebrate, the Our Water Campaign and the Clean Rivers Campaign are joining forces to host a Water Activist Training and Water Lobby Days!

Our local elected officials have critical decisions to make about Pittsburgh’s water future:
• Should a corporation have control over Pittsburgh’s drinking water again?
• Should we pass up an opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars 

in green infrastructure that will create jobs, mitigate dangerous flooding, 
and help stop basement backups?
• Should our region make sure no child has to drink lead-tainted water?

Join the Campaign and fellow water activists on March 23rd for a campaign training where you’ll get to learn more about these and other critical water issues, strategize with others before meeting with elected officials, and practice holding your representatives accountable to their constituents.

12-2 p.m. in the Liberty Room of the DHS Building (One Smithfield St., 15222). Please make sure to register online.

Mar 23: Water monitoring workshop

The Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, the Mountain Watershed Association, and the Breathe Project are excited to announce this stream and pipeline monitoring workshop. Participants will be provided with equipment and trained on stream monitoring techniques in order to document the health of local waterways, collect baseline data, and report potential shale gas extraction and pipeline impacts. There will also be a discussion about private well water testing, including how to do it in a way that will hold up in court if necessary.  

9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at the Fern Hollow Nature Center (1901 Glen Mitchell Rd, Sewickley, PA 15143). A box lunch will be provided, but please bring a thermos with a drink. Morning coffee and water will be available. Limited spots are open, so please RSVP here! For additional information, contact Natalie McNeill at or (717) 254-8143.

Mar 23: Free water filter distribution

In celebration of World Water Day, join Women for a Healthy Environment for this event!
Protect your health and reduce your and your family's lead exposure! WHE will be distributing FREE water-filtering pitchers certified to remove lead from tap water. They can also answer questions on how to reduce other forms of lead exposures in your home.

No requirements necessary to receive a filter, but priority will be given to:
• households and families with young children
• expecting parents
• households having a child with elevated blood lead levels 

(inside or outside the PWSA service area)

10 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. at these locations:  

North Side: Arnold's Coffee & Tea, 502 East Ohio St Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Pittsburgh Perry Traditional Academy, 3875 Perrysville Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15214
East Liberty: WHE Office, 5877 Commerce St, Suite 114, Pittsburgh, PA 15206

For more information, email or call 412-404-2872.

Mar 23: How Not to Save the Planet

With the ‘dire predictions’ of the IPCC report last October, the introduction of the Green New Deal in the new Congress, and the recent suggestion by author David Wallace-Wells that we have reached the 'Time to Panic', you are invited to a talk by Pitt political scientist Michael Goodhart as part of the 2019 Pittsburgh Humanities Festival:  
How Not to Save the Planet, A Core Conversation 
In this talk, Michael Goodhart will use the example of "kayaktivism" to illustrate why efforts to combat catastrophic climate transformation have mostly failed and reflect on how we might do better. Goodhart's key insight is that many scholars and activists have treated this as an argument, when it's really a fight.  Put differently, catastrophic climate transformation is not a scientific or a philosophical problem in Goodhart's view but, rather, a political problem and we must act accordingly. 

3 p.m. at the Trust Arts Education Center (805 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh 15222).  Tickets for $5 general admission available here.

Mar 17: German climate justice

Scaling Up the Resistance Tour:  
Strategies and stories from the German climate justice movement.
Social change happens when people lead.  Not corporations, not politicians… actual people.
But, as climate justice activists and organizers, how do we mobilize the numbers needed to truly stop the fossil fuel industry, topple the systems that let it run amuck, and create truly decentralized and democratized energy systems??
To answer this question, we’re excited to announce that the Glitterbox Theater is hosting organizers with radical climate justice group Ende Gelände to share stories from Germany’s wildly successful mass mobilizations.
Join German activists from Ende Gelände on their US tour as they share stories from organizing successful mass climate justice mobilizations — including their 6,000 person direct action against enormous open-cast lignite coal mines
4-6 p.m. at the Glitterbox Theater, 460 Melwood Ave.  $5-20 sliding scale. More information and RSVP here;  there's also a Facebook event.

Mar 15: Youth Climate Strike

Join students and activists participating in the global youth strike for climate action!

Noon at the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., downtown.

Mar 13: Air quality in Lawrenceville

A Community Meeting about Air Quality in Lawrenceville

Bothered by industrial odors? Wondering how Lawrenceville's poor air quality may be affecting public health?

Join members of Lawrenceville Clean Air Now - LCAN -- people who live and work in our neighborhood -- and Lawrenceville United to hear from Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP).

GASP experts will provide info and answer questions about how Lawrenceville air quality compares to other neighborhoods, whether it's getting better or worse, and what we can do about it.

6-7:30 p.m. at the Lawerenceville Library, lower level (279 Fisk St. 15201). Pizza and child care provided. Please register in advance at or by calling Lawrenceville United at (412) 802-7220.

Mar 9: Young Voices for the Planet educator workshop

Young Voices for the Planet is a series of short films about activist kids, making a difference in their communities and in the world.  Topics range from solar panels to sea level rise, plastic straws to planting trees, oil spills to environmental racism.  YVFP welcomes educators of all backgrounds to learn how to empower the next generation of environmental stewards. Using these amazing films and the Civic Engagement and Democracy curriculum as resources, this inspiring workshop addresses climate change education through real-life youth success stories tackling local Pittsburgh environmental issues. We will show you how to bring our A.C.T.I.O.N. Plan to life in your own classroom and community! WESA's The Allegheny Front (Pittsburgh's own environmental radio show) did a nice piece on these inspiring films and the workshop, which you can see and hear here.

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lutherlyn Camp (500 Lutherlyn Ln, Butler, PA 16001. Registration $15 (& $5 for Act48 credits); please register online here.  For any questions, please contact  the Lutherlyn Environmental Education office at or (724) 865-9079,  or Kimberly Gutzler (YVPF) at (202) 476-9141.   Facilitation, credits, and refreshments provided by Allegheny Land Trust.

Teaching Kids to Protect Their Future & Save the Planet!

Young people are concerned about many issues and want to make a difference. Teachers are asking what they can do to help empower students.  

When young people DO speak out, their voices have power!  At the COP24 climate talks, the voice most covered by the media was that of Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg addressing the UN“Our political leaders have failed us… We are facing an existential threat and there is no time to continue on this road of madness.” 

Over the next few months, Pittsburgh area institutions, partnering with Young Voices for the Planet and NY Times best-selling children’s book author and filmmaker Lynne Cherry, will be hosting a series of workshops to help teachers help students to be heard.  The workshops provide ACT 48 CREDITS while teaching educators how to:
  1. help students overcome doom and gloom and be energized by hope 
  2. help students create an ACTION PLAN to address local Pittsburgh issues.

The workshops center around the true stories in the Young Voices for the Planet short documentaries featuring youth taking the lead, creating solutions, changing laws, changing minds and changing society.  These stories reach hearts and inspire action.

Featured speakers:  Lynne Cherry;  Heather Harr, League of Women’s Voters;  Jessica Kester, Allegheny Land Trust;  and local youth speaking out for their environment. 

Pittsburgh is the ideal place to launch this Civic Engagement and Democracy pilot workshop because the city’s sustainability goals serve as a guiding light for the rest of the country.

The workshops are sponsored by The Heinz Endowments and the Garden Club of Allegheny County.

To learn more about workshops and registration, please click here.

Mar 4: Rachel Carson reflection/conversation

Revisiting Rachel Carson's Message - An Ethic for the 21st Century
In these challenging times when environmental protections are under attack, and the cumulative effects of our fossil- fuel dependence are causing global consequences, it is important to reflect on the message of hope and renewal.  Rachel Carson's words of precaution in protecting the living Earth resonate today not only as a warning not heeded but also as an expression of confidence in the resilience and stability of Earth's living systems.

Join local Rachel Carson scholar and energy expert Patricia DeMarco, author of Pathways to Our Sustainable Future: A Global Perspective from Pittsburgh, for a conversation about local conservationist pioneer, Rachel Carson.  Carson's book Silent Spring inspired a global environmental movement -- and even today, her impact on how we view our role in protecting nature lives on.

6:30 p.m. at the Cooper-Siegel Community Library (403 Fox Chapel Road, 15218).  Free and open to the public.  For details and to RSVP, click here