Apr 30: The Problem with Plastics

The Problem With Plastics and What We Can Do About It:  
Personal and Political Solutions

Plastics pollution is more than just an eyesore.  As plastic breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, Bisphenol A (BPA) and other chemicals leach into streams and rivers where most of us get our drinking water.  Fish and wildlife mistake plastic for food — and can be injured or killed after eating it.  Plastic is not biodegradable, so it will be in our streams, rivers, and oceans forever!
Come learn what you, your family, and your community can do about plastics pollution — and how we can start to live without plastic.

Nick Coles activist with the What'sSUP Challenge to reduce single-use plastics (SUPs) in our lives and environment.

Dianne Peterson Activist, Eco-Educator & Entrepreneur, on the dangers of plastic and how to curtail its use.

7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Hills (Sunnyhill), 1240 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, PA 15228.  Free and open to everyone in the community;  limited on-site parking.  Sponsored by the Allegheny County and Greene County chapters of the Izaak Walton League, Clean Air Council, EarthCare, NoPetroPA, Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project. Food & Water Watch, Healthcare4allpa

Apr 30: Stormwater solutions for Shadyside

Stormwater Solutions Coming to Shadyside

The Maryland Avenue Stormwater Improvement Project will use cost-effective green stormwater solutions to help reduce the ongoing issues of basement backups, neighborhood flooding, and combined sewer overflows that commonly occur during heavy rains.

Phase I of the project focuses on the construction of stormwater solutions within the public right-of-way along Maryland Avenue, Kentucky Avenue, College Street and Walnut Street. Please join the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority for a project update on Tuesday, April 30th and share your thoughts about the design of this project. For more information, please visit the project website at www.pgh2o.com/marylandavenue.

6:30-8 at 555 Morewood Avenue, 15213.  Free and open to the public;  please register online

Apr 30: Book launch

Local author Joshua Bellin has just completed his Ecosystem trilogy.  Bellin's environmentally-focused science fiction and fantasy novels have gained a strong following;  this trilogy is a cautionary tale about humanity's relationship with the natural world.  The release of the third book will be celebrated at Riverstone Books up in Ross Township, with books available for sale and signing.

6:30-8 p.m. at Riverstone Books (8850 Covenant Ave., 15237).  Food, fun, goodies, books, and conversation.  Check in on the Facebook event page!

Apr 28: 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!
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (One Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA 15213 -- the workshop will be in the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, down behind the main glasshouses). Registration $15 (& $5 for Act48 credits); please register online here.  For any questions, please contact Phipps Research and Science Education Outreach manager Maria Wheeler-Dubas by email o(412) 622-6915, ext. 3220 or Kimberly Gutzler (YVPF) at (202) 476-9141.   Facilitation and Act 48 credits 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 fillmmaker 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 include author and filmmaker Lynne Cherry;  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 Allegheny Front, our own local environmental radio show, did a great segment on the first workshop.

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. 

Apr 27: Sustainability Salon on Food

For the 87th Sustainability Salon, we will return to our annual springtime Focus on Food.  

Sam Applefield, a Chatham Food Studies grad now at the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, will fill us in on plans for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan, share research findings, and announce upcoming community engagement sessions.  Blackberry Meadows Farm has been growing for CSA and markets while working to increase the nutrition levels of their crops since 1992.  When Jen Montgomery anGreg Boulos took over in 2007, they faced a boom in farms and wholesalers offering subscription programs, and have introduced some unique community ventures -- a Garden Share program enabling more people to get involved in growing, and cooking 'fast food' with their organic produce and pastured meats.  Greg will discuss what's coming up for this summer at the farm and at the markets.  Stefan Vantchev is an entrepreneur bringing monitoring and control technology into greenhouse production to maximize efficiency, minimize resource use, and optimize the quality of harvests.  And we'll hear from author, illustrator, and filmmaker Lynne Cherry on the Young Voices for the Planet project, a series of short films about young environmental activists -- inspiring, and also demonstrating the power of kids in public discourse on issues from local food to planting trees to renewable energy.  Lynne is leading a series of educator workshops on civic engagement and democracy that will enable teachers and informal educators in our region to foster a new generation of activists using these amazing films (the next workshop will be on April 28th at Phipps Conservatory, and Lynne will also be on the radio on Saturday morning!).

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, and a persistent pollutant killing marine life all around the world -- 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 have been working on this issue (No Plastics Please, What's SUP, SUPless Mondays, No Straws 'n'At), and this is a great place to connect with them!

The next Sustainability Salon will take place on May 25th.  As always, you can browse around MarensList for more events -- including our own house concert with the amazing activist singer/songwriter Tom Neilson (Friday April 26th) and the Young Voices for the Planet workshops, including the next one on April 28th.

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.  If you drive down our street, please park only on the uphill-facing side, and take care not to block driveways on either side of the street.  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 whether to preserve existing nuclear power plantsadvanced 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. 

Apr 27: Help plant 1,000 trees!

Following last year’s successful planting of 1,000 trees on Earth Day, Tree Pittsburgh is at it again this year to plant a second group of 1,000 trees.  This time on Arbor Day!
On Saturday April 27, Tree Pittsburgh will be working alongside the Quaker Valley Recreation Association to accomplish this planting goal, and we need your help!  Last year we had upwards of 90 volunteers helping us, and this year we’re hoping for the same!
Thanks to funding from the Alcoa Foundation and American Forests, this project aims to reforest large swaths of the former Bell Acres Recreation Park north of Sewickley.
9am-12pm at Bell Acres Recreation Park (Camp Meeting Road, Sewickley, PA 15143).  Breakfast snacks and a pizza lunch will be included.  Please register online!  For more info, contact jake@treepittsburgh.org or call (412) 781‑8733 x203

Apr 27: Lynne Cherry on Saturday Light Brigade

Author, illustrator, and filmmaker Lynne Cherry -- the power behind the Young Voices for the Planet films and curriculum -- will be featured on Larry Berger's local radio show The Saturday Light Brigade.  The segment will be approximately from 8:35 to 9 a.m., live from SLB's studios at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum.  Lynne will also be part of the 87th Sustainability Salon that evening, and is leading a workshop at Phipps the following day.

Here are all the FM/online stations where folks can tune in live: http://slbradio.org/listen .  The segment will also be archived for stream/download on SLB's other website at: http://neighborhoodvoices.org/.

Apr 26: House concert with Tom Neilson and Lynn Waldron

Please join us for this amazing house concert!  Singer, songwriter, guitarist, and lifelong activist Tom Neilson was born on a dairy farm in upstate New York, and has traveled and lived around the world while organizing against wars, pipelines, pollution, and other forms of injustice (and making music).  His memorable songs run the gamut from fracking and pipelines, coal ash and climate change, racism and police violence, labor and land, war and peace...  to Citizens United and Victoria’s Secret, Palestinian cows, and bomb trains, bears, and Betsy DeVos. 

Winner of the Kerrville Folk Festival, The Great Labor Arts Award, and the People's Choice Song of the Year (among others), and a nominee for the UN Nelson Mandela Award for Lifetime Achievement in Peace and Justice.  You can learn more, and listen to some of his music online, at TomNeilsonMusic.com.  

Tom will be joined this time by his wife Lynn Waldron, who has been co-writing and performing with Tom theatrically and musically for a decade.  She's known for her onstage playfulness, wit, and beautiful harmonies as she weaves the fabric of people’s stories.  She travels with Tom when she can slip away from her work as a software writer and trainer.  At home, she sings in a hospice group called the Eventide Singers, serving those who are critically ill and/or in transition.

One of the savviest songwriters I know.
                                     --World Soul Records

This is very good music and very good politics.
                                                   --Tom Paxton

A global sophistication put into extraordinary performance art!
--Kathy Hersh, Miami Friends

 Tom’s music is at the core of our movement. The man is a genius. 
-- Dr. Jan Kirsch, 350 East Bay

Politically cutting-edge, warm, & very funny; Raucous satire & quick wit. 
                 -- Cathy Gilbert, Miami Dade Greens

...Reminding people of what is really important, and the power of folk music to say it.
            -- Michael Stock, WLRN, Miami, FL

If you haven't heard his slant on social justice and current events you are missing a treat!
                                     -- April Myers, Amarillo UU
Skewers the behavior of the greedy & powerful in the media, corporations & government.   
                              -- People’s Voice CafĂ©,  NYC

Tom brought much needed energy and humor to our ongoing peace efforts in Milwaukee this weekend, as well as helping to unite us.  His show was nourishing and replenished the spirits of the community.  
-- Mark Foreman, Milwaukee VFP

People are still talking about Tom's performance, which brought just the right balance of biting political commentary, humor, personal storytelling, and memorable music to our house concert.  His songs, his voice, and his guitar wrapped it all up into one great package.                                       -- Vicki Ryder, South Florida Raging Grannies

7 p.m. (door 6:30) at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Light fare to share (food contributions appreciated, but not expected).  Suggested donation $15.  Directions and other info will come after RSVP -- and please do RSVP even if you know your way!  Email me with "concert" in the Subject line, with name(s) of attendees -- or via Eventbrite if you're on the email list for Sustainability Salons (email me with "salon" in the Subject line if you'd like to be added).  You can also call 412-251-5814 (9-9, please, and do leave a message!)

Previous Putting Down Roots house concerts have included Two of a Kind and Brad YoderMike AgranoffSparky & Rhonda RuckerPutnam SmithKen Gaines and the Squirrel Hillbillies, and Randal Bays & Davey Mathias.

Apr 22: Neil Donahue on Climate Change & Air Quality

On Earth Day, join Professor Neil Donahue for a discussion of the links between climate change and air quality. Climate change is driven by long-lived carbon dioxide whereas air quality is degraded by soot, air toxics and such. The very long residence time of carbon dioxide means that the consequences of emissions are spread around the globe for centuries in the future (though we see them now as well). This means that a city may see more benefit than harm from emissions. Most air pollution is the opposite. Pollutants reside in the air for at least a week and are confined close to their sources. The harm is thus felt near the emissions. This causes a much stronger incentive for local action. Air pollution in Allegheny County kills at least 250 people each year, well more than auto crashes and homicides combined. Improvements to air quality in the Pittsburgh region have saved thousands of lives each year, with quantifiable (large) economic benefits. However, policies to eliminate fossil carbon emissions (decarbonization) will also eliminate the associated air pollution, and this co-benefit means the local benefits of climate action are in fact strong, making local and not just national or worldwide climate action a selfish and not just altruistic act.

Neil Donahue was born in Pittsburgh. He received a B.A. in Physics from Brown University in 1984 and a Ph.D. in Meteorology and Atmospheric Chemistry from MIT in 1991. He is currently the Thomas Lord Professor of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University and the Director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (also at Carnegie Mellon).

7-8:30 p.m. at the Monroeville Public Library (4000 Gateway Blvd., Monroeville 15146). Free & open to the public. Part of the Science Adventures lecture series.

Apr 20: FutureFest

Come and enjoy a day of celebration! Communitopia and the Pennsylvania Resource Council will be celebrating sustainable living with activities for children, live performers, and many more fun activities. We will also have many of the leading companies in sustainable living at this event for you to talk to, from solar energy to ReuseFest! If you would like to volunteer or would like to represent your organization at this event please email charlotte@communitiopia.org.

Non-profits who will be collecting gently used goods at the ReuseFest Collection include Brother's Brother Foundation, Construction Junction, Dress for Success Pittsburgh, Off the Floor Pittsburgh, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Free Store Wilkinsburg, Propel Northside Community Wellness Center, Global Links, Free Ride, Grow Pittsburgh, The Education Partnership, Humane Animal Rescue, and Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse. To learn more about what they accept visit prc.org/reuse

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. in Buhl Community Park, by the Children's Museum on the North Side