Sep 22: CCL picnic

Please join Citizens Climate Lobby for a fundraiser/potluck/end of summer party! CCL will provide food and drinks, and attendees will contribute sides, desserts, and fruit. Food provided will be vegetarian (including a chance to sample the Beyond meatless burger).  

Play some fun games like Corn Hole, as you take in the beautiful urban farm setting. Kids are welcome! In addition to a raffle auction, for a small contribution you can take a photo with cardboard Greta Thunberg or with the "climate hawk", feed the chickens (real chickens), or "walk the Tesla," which means summoning it with a cell phone - so bring some ones or fives for a little fun. Please help us get the word out!

4:30-7 at 7211 Thomas Blvd., 15208. You can see who else is going on Facebook, but please also RSVP on Eventbrite so we know how many to prepare for.

Sep 22: Deadline for sign-on to protect the DEP

There's a plan afoot to gut the regulatory powers of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
HB 1106 and HB 1107 would essentially gut the protective permitting process in our state for not only oil and gas projects, but ALL industrial activities affecting air and water quality.  The Environmental Integrity Project has been working to prevent this, and there's a sign-on letter to deliver a powerful message to legislators and the governor.  I've posted the text of the letter here, and you can add your name (or your organization) here.

From Lisa Graves-Marcucci at the Environmental Integrity Project:

The attorneys at EIP have drafted a letter to Governor Wolf and PA House and Senate members detailing citizen opposition to HB 1106 and HB 1107 - based on concerns grounded in regulatory rules and federal laws.  Please review the letter and let us know if you'd like to add your name as an individual and/or your name and your organization - we are accepting both. We've created a link that will provide you with an easy-to-use form that will help us gather signatories and add to the final letter.

Link to sign onto this letter:
Deadline for adding your name is Sunday, September 22, Noon.
Thanks to all for the concerted effort to oppose these reckless bills.  And, please share this message with others you think might share these concerns.

Again, more details are here:

Sep 21: Sustainability Salon on Single-Use Plastics

Single-use plastics are wreaking havoc at both ends of their lifespan, all for the sake of a little convenience in between -- and a lot of profit for a few big corporations.  The 92nd Sustainability Salon will feature the new organization Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastics (PASUP;  formerly What's SUP).
UPDATE:  The attempt to gut the DEP, and the text of a sign-on letter to help prevent it, can be found  here.

Lovely heron -- but doomed, due to a plastic ring.
Speakers will include Danica Buchanan-Wollaston, introducing PASUP’s Action Teams and activities so far;  Nick Coles on legislative actions addressing SUPs elsewhere;  Sabrina Culyba, the main force behind PASUP's informative RecycleThisPgh web site, which answers many of your recycling questions;  Rebecca Stallings, co-creator of The Earthling's Handbook, which has been offering helpful articles on greener living since 1997;  environmental filmmaker, activist, and No Petro PA founder Mark Dixon will bring us back to the beginning, drawing the connection between fracking, pipelines, petrochemical plants, climate, and single-use plastic.  Before and after the talks, April Clisura will quiz you on your recycling knowhow with a fun sorting game, and Dianne Peterson will have samples of Dianne's Dishware (bamboo tableware available for rental) as well as all sorts of alternatives to SUPs available through Our Children Our Earth.

 Other groups are working on the demand side of equation (how to reduce the market for single-use plastic) as well, including Humane Action Pittsburgh's No Plastic Please campaign, the Izaak Walton League Allegheny Chapter, PennEnvironment's Zero Waste Campaign, and the Pennsylvania Resources Council.  Still more organizations are working to stop the related expansion of the petrochemical industry;  check out No Petro PA, the Breathe Project, 350 Pittsburgh, Climate Reality Pittsburgh & SWPA, the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, and Food & Water Watch.

Related to all of this (and everything else) is climate, a recurrent topic at Sustainability Salons.  This  Friday is the Global Climate Strike!  Pittsburgh students will be representing downtown, with lots of non-student supporters alongside.  Please join them!  There may also be an action in Oakland, but I don't have the details as of this writing.  On Sunday the 22nd, Citizens Climate Lobby is having a picnic -- please come out and support CCL's efforts to get carbon fee & dividend legislation passed.  And thinking ahead to next month, please mark your calendar for a Peace March on the 5th and GASP's 50th Anniversary Gala on the 12th.

So what's wrong with single-use plastic?

Plastics production... the ethane cracker plant being constructed in Beaver County will emit VOCs, other pollutants, and about half as much carbon dioxide as the entire city of Pittsburgh -- and it's just the first of several planned for our region.  Feeding it will require a thousand new frack wells a year, which means that that much more methane will be burned -- and leaked along the way (and methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide).  Fracking ruins aquifers, wildlife habitat, and the health of people who live nearby.  Exporting methane (because it's gotten so cheap here) not only requires pipelines and export terminals, but it leaves us with extraction hazards while exporting the clean-burning advantage of methane over coal (which was one of the selling points of the drilling boom).

Plastics disposal... Only a small fraction of plastic is actually recycled into new items;  much of it either languishes in landfills (after wasting time, effort, and energy getting there) or winds up in the environment.  And plastic doesn't rot away like paper or cotton or wool, or corrode like metal;  it lasts for hundreds of years, breaking into smaller pieces often mistaken for food by birds and marine life.  Single-use plastics are choking birds and ocean life, literally -- bits and bobs and floating bags are taken for food by predators, who die of starvation while stuffed with plastic.  Coral swathed in plastic film sickens and dies -- and coral reefs are basically the bottom of the food chain.  Animals get trapped in plastic;  I photographed the great blue heron above at Phipps, just a day or two before it died because a plastic ring prevented it from eating.  Peanut the turtle was permanently deformed by a drink ring (Please Never Discard Anything Ringlike Without Cutting It!).  What's a net, but a zillion rings?  Dolphins and other mammals routinely get entangled in fishing nets.  And I'm warning you, the infamous turtle-straw video is really hard to watch.  We'll talk about single-use plastics, the work PASUP has been doing so far, and where to go from here.

Salons run 3-10 p.m. at Maren's house in Squirrel Hill.  Please don't arrive before 3 p.m.  We aim to start the program not long after 4, after folks have had a chance to meet, mingle, and tour around an interesting and productive urban permaculture site.  After the talks and discussion, we'll break for a potluck supper (and more conversation).  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 notice (if you're not already on my list, just email me with salon in the subject line to be added!).  

Please do RSVP each time -- it helps greatly in several ways.  Among other things, 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 (usually Friday night).  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;  fit'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 election activismelection law, 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 foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand 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 sort 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.  Please try to minimize single-use plastic -- if you're thinking of a deli tray of vegetables, just get some whole veggies and we can cut 'em up here!  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 (again, no single-use packaging) and provide a big batch of homemade/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. 

Sep 20: Global Climate Strike

Climate change has reached a crisis point;  there is no time left to spare.  
On September 20th, students worldwide will strike for climate action.  This global protest will show those in power that they can no longer ignore the damage they have done to our Earth.  Pittsburgh will join this global movement, demanding climate action in our community. 
Join local students at the Pittsburgh City-County Building on September 20th to strike for the future!  There will be speakers, food trucks, and fun.  Bring your best signs and all the friends you can.  We can’t wait to see you there!
Noon at 414 Grant Street, downtown -- this Friday and every Friday!  Keep up to date on Fridays For Future Pittsburgh:

Sep 15: Take Action on Plastic Waste

Are you concerned about the negative effects of single-use plastics -- to birds, to ocean life, to our own health?  If so, please join us for a Take Action on Plastic Waste event convened by PASUP (Pittsburghers Against Single-Use Plastic).  We'll have a short film screening and a group meeting, then break into action groups around various solutions of interest.  

2:30 to 4:30, Construction Junction at 214 N. Lexington St.  Light Refreshments will be served.  To sign up in advance, email  You can also join our Facebook page:  SUP Challenge Pittsburgh.

The next Sustainability Salon will also feature PASUP.

Sep 11: Paris to Pittsburgh screening

  • Please join Interfaith Power & Light to watch Paris to Pittsburgh, a new film from National Geographic. This film is being offered to draw faith communities together to inspire local community action to heal the climate for the benefit of all.  From coastal cities to America’s heartland, Americans are demanding and developing real solutions in the face of climate change. And as the weather grows more deadly and destructive, they aren’t waiting on Washington to act. Learn about their incredible stories in Paris to Pittsburgh and be inspired to create change in our own community!
  • 6:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Mennonite Church (2018 S. Braddock Ave. in Swissvale).  More details at  Check the Facebook event page for updates! 

Sep 8: Renewable Energy Fair

Do you want to find out how to switch to all renewable electricity? Are you trying to decide
whether solar panels would work on your house? Do you know how to measure your carbon
footprint? To find answers to these questions and other energy use matters, come to the
RENEWABLE ENERGY FAIR hosted by the Environmental Team of the Justice Committee after the sanctuary service on September 8. Representatives of several renewable energy suppliers will be available to answer your questions and to help you make the switch, There will be a
solar energy advisor. Please bring your electricity bill.

Following 11 a.m. service, in the Social Hall of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church.

Another important action is to calculate your carbon footprint.  We will have information and
help in doing a carbon calculator and then explain the carbon offset concept.  For example,
offset your air travel by paying into a project that reduces CO2 emissions by equivalent amount.
If you know your yearly electricity use (in kWh, from the electric company), your yearly gas use
(in MCF or therms, from the gas company), and approximate annual miles traveled,
Environmental Team can help you to determine your carbon footprint right on the spot.
Light lunch will be provided.  For more information, contact Nancy Heastings at  

Sep 7: Green Economics lecture/panel

Public lecture and panel on Green New Economics:  Theory into Action!

The event will begin with an introduction to Understanding Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).  During the Theory into Action half of the presentation, the focus will be on health care, infrastructure, education, climate change, and a proposal for breaking the ice through Federal funding of 100% for Medicaid.

The panel will include Fadhel Kaboub, PhD, an Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University and President of the  Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity , as well as Steven Larchuk, Esq. of Pittsburgh is an attorney, historian, author, and speaker for urgent action to address the impact of America's 40-year money famine. 

1-4 p.m. at the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Oakland (the entrance is to the right of the main branch Carnegie Library, near the bridge).  More details and online registration are here.  Please be sure to RSVP!  Sponsored by the Keystone Progress Education Fund, Real Progressives, the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, and Healthcare4All PA.  

Sep 1: Action for Amazonia march and rally

Photo by Dado Galdier for The Guardian/AP
Amazonia is burning!  
The Amazon rainforest has seen an 80% increase in fires since 2018. And 99% percent of the fires result from human actions "either on purpose or by accident," said Alberto Setzer, a senior scientist at INPE. The burning can range from a small-scale agricultural practice, to new deforestation for a mechanized and modern agribusiness project.

The legendary Peoples Climate March of 400,000 people in NYC, led by Indigenous Peoples from many unique tribes on March 2nd, 2014.
The Indigenous People and all life-forms of the Amazon Rainforest are calling upon the rest of the world to TAKE ACTION. Please join us by rallying publicly outside the Carnegie Library of Oakland (by Dippy the Dinosaur) to raise public awareness, gain media attention, and propose small solutions that we can all do to boycott companies that profit off the exploitation of the Amazon Rainforest. #ActionForAmazonia

Here are some simple steps we recommend for coming to the Rally here in Pittsburgh and elsewhere:
1. Invite any local friends / groups who care about protecting the Amazon Rainforest / Climate Change, etc.
2. Invite local News, Print, and Video Media to grow public awareness.
3. Create signs, handouts, banners, etc. that advocate for boycotts, eating/buying local, low-carbon lifestyles, and other action step.
4. Document and share via all social media channels using #ActionForAmazonia
5. Join our Potluck in the grove of grass/trees outside the Library across from Schenley Plaza the rally after encouraging local foods, vegan/vegetarian dishes, and aim for Zero Food Waste, with compost / recycling available. This way the event doesn't simply end with the Rally and you can actually get to know other people passionate about Environmental Issues, share food together, and brainstorm for further actions. We encourage local gardeners, farmers, activists, and concerned citizens cross-pollinate and co-support eachothers' efforts.
6. Learn as much as you can about the Amazon, and whatever issue(s) you care most about, so you can be a spokesperson and help inform others about how they can take action.

2-5 p.m. outside the Carnegie Library main branch in Oakland. Learn more and touch base at the Facebook event pages for the local rally and the  Global effort. (If another time/day works for you or your group to do some of these things, go for it!) Local rally is being put together by Team Pachamama, the Breathe Project, and Extinction Rebellion Pittsburgh.

Questions/comments? Email

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens 
can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." 
-- Margaret Mead