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. 

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