Mar 27: Sustainability Salon on Food (Part I)

Marking a year (and what a year!) since the first virtual Sustainability Salon, the 110th salon will return to our annual focus on Food.  This month's speakers will include:
•  Karen Gardner, Pennsylvania Manager of the National Young Farmers Coalition, will talk about the Driving PA Forward campaign to expand access to drivers' licenses -- and its intersections with the food system in PA.  There's also a petition pressuring Pennsylvania to improve the situation.
•  Erin Hart, founder and director of Farm To Table Western PA, will share the organization's work during the COVID-19 pandemic connecting local farmers, area restaurants, and residents of public housing communities.
•  Clemmie Murdock III is the Production Manager and Director of Keepin' It Real at Redstart Roasters, a Pittsburgh coffee company focused on sourcing high-quality beans from farms that have earned the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s Bird-Friendly Coffee certification. With a coffeeshop in East Liberty and a small-batch roastery in Point Breeze, they're also educating the public about migratory birds and the rainforests where they winter.
•  Rhea Homa coordinates ReImagine Food Systems, part of the ReImagine Turtle Creek Watershed & Airshed Communities Plus initiative.  RiFS helps households in under-resourced communities east of Pittsburgh establish home vegetable gardens by providing structures, soil, seeds, plants, and education.  
•  Pamela Barroso has been sharing seeds as a volunteer for Cooperative Gardens, and will talk about seed saving. 

The next salon -- Food (Part II) will very likely take place on April 17th.  In the meantime, a few other events of note:   On March 23rd, a virtual teach-in on the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.  March 25th, reimagine a healthier future with the second Bioplastic: Hype or Hope? event.  Although the annual Seed Swap can't happen in its usual form this year, the organizers are holding a series of online lunchtime gardening workshops, as well as a seed distribution.  More info is here.  And a mask update:  I still have a few from my second bulk order (read: substantial discount!) of the Breathe99 masks that we featured at November's salon on Pandemics and Air (video), as well as a supply of the new foam liners that address the condensation issue associated with a well-sealed mask.  Please email me with mask in the Subject line if you're interested.  These masks were selected as one of TIME's 100 Best Inventions of 2020!

Talks and discussion will run from 4 p.m. to 7:30 or so on Zoom (sadly, no potluck supper these days).  You're welcome to join the call for informal conversation after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the main program right around 4.  If you're new to Zoom, you may find my Zoom Reference Guide helpful.  If you RSVP via Eventbrite, you'll receive the Zoom registration link right away.  If you're not already on my Eventbrite list, please email me (maren dot cooke at gmail dot com) with salon in the Subject line to be added -- and let me know how you heard about salons!
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.  Each month we 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 (though the potluck and the music are on hiatus during the pandemic).  
Past topics have included the legacy of the Fukushima nuclear disasterthe judiciary and fair electionsconsumptionpandemics and air,  election law and activismair quality and environmental justicesocial investment,  local economies, the economics of energymutual aid networksocean healththe rise of the radical rightthe back end of consumptionapproaches to activism on fracking & climateair quality, technology, and citizen sciencesingle-use plasticselection 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 food, 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!).

Coronavirus update:   As you know, people in Pittsburgh and around the world are sequestered at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Social distancing is still the rule for most Americans.  That's a bit of a misnomer, though -- we need physical distancing to flatten the curve, but technology now allows for rich interactions even so!  I believe that community is one of our greatest strengths, so in March as events began to be cancelled, I hosted the first virtual Sustainability Salon via Zoom teleconference -- rather than gathering our usual 50-80 people in a contained space.   It went quite well (even engaging participants from hundreds of miles away), and we're looking forward to June's salon!  Please be sure to RSVP (via email with "salon" in the Subject: line, or via Eventbrite) so you'll receive the sign-on information.  

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.  If interested folks are online and everything is working smoothly by around 3:30, perhaps I can conduct a virtual tour.

And if you like to make music or listen to homemade music, think back to our evening sings -- we typically ran the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time was had by all.  Folks would bring instruments, and/or pick up one of ours.  Conversations would continue through the evening, as well.  With a virtual event this is less likely to happen, but we can share music by turns, reminisce, chat online, and look forward to the post-COVID era!

Mar 23: Teach-In on BFFPPA

 What is the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act -- and how can you support it?  

This event will feature:
  • A presentation (giving an overview of the BFFPPA bill) from Congressional aides:
    Dr Anja Malawi Brandon (Senator Jeff Merkley) &
    Shane Trimmer (Congressman Alan Lowenthal)
  • Alexis Goldsmith: National Organizing Director of Beyond Plastics sharing how we can support the bill
  • A short film by Stiv Wilson (creator of "Story of Plastics”)
  • Live Q & A session

7-8:30 p.m. EDT, online.  For more info and to register to receive the sign-on link, click here
Co-hosted by  PASUP, A-Z Impacts of Plastics, and several other organizations including Putting Down Roots.  You can keep up with developments on Facebook

More about A-Z Plastics: This event will not only showcase this groundbreaking legislation, but it will also kick off of the A-Z series 2.0! Last summer People Over Petro and many of its partners joined in a summer digital series and summit called Tackling theA-Z Impacts of Plastic - From Fracked Gas to Plastic Pollution in the Ohio River Valley and Beyond. Hundreds of people joined in  a social network with events, arts, and discussions around the impacts of plastic and what we can do about it. See for more info, to join the A-Z community, and watch recordings of past events.

More about PASUPPittsburghers Against Single Use Plastic is a group advocating for a systemic & equitable shift away from plastic. Learn more and get involved by visiting

Mar 19: Climate Strike

Join a Rally & March for Climate Justice!

A coalition of intersectional social and environmental justice groups are co-organizing local participation in the Global Climate Strike on Friday, March 19th. The day-long event will provide opportunities to make noise and take action for the widespread desire to prioritize climate change in Southwestern PA and invest in the wellbeing of communities over the interests of a few. Now is the time to stand up for bold action to ensure good jobs and a livable future for all. Skip class >> Save the planet. 

We plan to rally around demands for equitable, green futures for all Pittsburghers. This includes COVID relief to frontline communities with dangerous air quality, university divestment from fossil fuels (and reinvestment in the community), and calling for state investment in a sustainable, just economic recovery.
While our actions will center youth voice, justice-seekers of all ages are welcome.
Gathering at noon on Flagstaff Hill in Oakland.  Youth speakers will be sharing their demands for the future of the region, and we'll be marching through the streets of Oakland.  Please reach out to let us know how we can make this event accessible for you.
- Make a sign and bring something to make noise.  The Sunrise Movement is famous for our Wide Awake actions that are meant to wake people up to the climate crisis and remind them of the widespread support for immediate and drastic action.
- Wear a mask (or two) and maintain distance whenever possible.  All participants in the rally and march MUST wear a face covering (mask or face-shield).  We recognize that health issues may limit peoples' ability to participate in an in-person event while wearing a face covering, and are providing ways to engage in the Global Climate Strike virtually.  Face masks will be available at the event.
Gathering at Flagstaff Hill at noon, with a march around Oakland.  Online events 4-6 p.m.

Mar 11 & 25: Bioplastic -- Hype or Hope?

Please join us for a conversation on the emerging field of Bioplastic and the potential to grow a new industry in our region!

Learn how new scientific advancements in this industry may hold promise to phase out fossil fuel and petrochemical-based materials and provide new economic development possibilities.

Register once for two events!

Event #1: The Future of Bioplastic – March 11, 2021

Join our host Dr. Patricia DeMarco for an overview of the circular economy, an intro to the pros and cons of bioplastic, the promise of hemp as a versatile material and the R & D efforts that are so important to create products that are biodegradable, compostable and recyclable.

Guest speakers include:

Dr. Patricia DeMarco, Chatham University

Dr. Clifford Lau, Duquesne University

Anne Rouse, U.S. Fulbright Scholar, producer and educator

Taylor Weiss, University of Arizona 

Event #2: Building a Bioplastic Industry – March 25, 2021

Join our host Joanne Martin for a conversation on ReImagine Beaver County and the efforts to create an eco-industrial park to provide clean jobs and economic development initiatives that advance sustainable solutions.

Guest Speakers Include:

Joanne Martin, ReImagine Beaver County

Eric Hurlock, Industrial Hemp Podcast

Kristen Olmi, K.O. Consulting

and more...

An Event Series Presented By:

-- ReImagine Beaver County

-- Beaver County Marcellus Awareness Community

-- League of Women Voters of PA

-- Climate Reality Project

-- Breathe Project