Green Workplace Challenge
To a packed enthusiastic house at The Andy Warhol Museum over three hundred people celebrated organizations large and small for making strides to decrease energy consumption, reduce waste, improve the environment and work toward Pittsburgh truly being the Most Livable City in the United States. Green Workplace challenge has had over 200 participants, who have completed 5,831 actions. Hats off to Sustainable Pittsburgh and program director Matt Mehalik for making this program grow over the past three years. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said it best when he said we need to double the number of participants in 2016. I know we can do it. Fireman Creative is going to take the Green Workplace Challenge next year and we are going to work hard to get everyone we work with to want to join as well. This years winners are The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Highmark, University of Pittsburgh, evolve, Pashek Associates, GASP, G-Tech, Allegheny County, Monaca, the Mall at Robinson and Sustainable Pittsburgh. Important to note that CCI won a legacy award for greatest gains over 3 years and PRC won second place but through their work helped many of the wining participants with audits.
The mood was high about the strides companies are making however two areas need improvement. First is our air quality and second water consumption. Our air is among the worst in the nation. Philip Johnson, Program Director of the Heinz Endowments gave an eye opening presentation on the serious danger our poor air quality poses to our regions health and wellness. The leading cause by far is coke plants, but other factors are incinerators, burning coal and wood, and emissions from cars buses and trucks. Because of our geography and our lack of stricter health department regulations we are left the poorest air quality in the country. In terms of water consumption our use increased rather than decreased and this is an area we can improve on. I wonder if because we have three rivers that people think we can waste water.
Both the County Executive and Bill Flannigan of The Allegheny Conference spoke to Pittsburgh’s booming green building community and the leadership role PNC has played in being the biggest green real estate landlord in the country. They also pointed out that for the first time in the last 40 years Pittsburgh’s median age has decreased to under the National average. Making the leap that being green is attractive to Millennials. When 33 year old Tom Szaky took the podium he shared a vision for eco-capitalism that proved to me that for every problem there is a solution. His company TerraCycle is finding great uses for all kinds of hard to recycle items including cigarette butts, yes used filters can be recycled and turning them into new things like park benches. They are also up cycling juice pouches and chip bags into cool kid products like back packs and soccer balls. Hearing a visionary entrepreneur was good for my creative soul and convinces me that Pittsburgh can clean up our act, by taking care of our trash, making better use of our resources and even starting to car pool to work.