Forget Gold and Black, Pittsburgh is all about Green

Pittsburgh — By on October 26, 2011 at 12:00 pm

By Kristen Putch
LG Acquisitions Editor

When it comes to the green movement, Pittsburgh is probably not the first city that comes to mind.  Images of steel mills and black smoke coating the city are hard to erase, but it no longer is the smoky city it once was. Green initiatives are a vital and growing force in Pittsburgh.

Known as the “Steel City,” Pittsburgh, the second largest city in Pennsylvania, was home to a thriving steel industry for much of the 20th century.  The air pollution that hung over Pittsburgh’s steel mills for nearly 150 years is gone, and the region has undergone a dramatic environmental transformation. It has transformed from America’s Steel Capital to the Green City.

LEEDing the pack

Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance pushes businesses and residents alike to consider green-building design and materials in construction and in renovations.

Pittsburgh prides itself on several Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings, awarded by the United States Green Building Council, including the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and the CONSOL Energy Center. Home to the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team, CONSOL is the first LEED gold-certified arena in both the NHL and AFL.

The PNC Firstside Center is not only one of the greenest buildings in the city, it is also one of the biggest. The silver-level LEED certified building is green from head-to-toe. The carpet is made from recycled materials, including a rug at the entrance made of hog’s hair to capture dirt, the floor is made of crushed glass and cement, and it features a sunlit atrium.

The city also boasts several green hotels, most notably the Fairmont, located at 510 Market Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The slogan, “Where Green is Gold,” embraces the hotel’s philosophy of sustainability and responsible tourism. The hotel has received gold-level LEED certification for its environmentally friendly building design.

As part of their green initiatives, the hotel will be offering its “Take a Trip, Leave a Tree” package through December 31. The package includes overnight accommodations, a guided bike tour of the Three Rivers Heritage Trails, available through October 31, 2011 (Ice skating around the Christmas tree at the Rink at PPG offered November-December), a picnic lunch for two with complimentary picnic basket, a donation to the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, for which native sapling will be planted in your honor in one of Pittsburgh’s four urban forests and two tickets to Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens.

A Greener Greenhouse

The Phibbs Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is more than a Green House. It is a complex of buildings and grounds set in Schenley Park. The facilities house elaborate gardens within the thirteen room conservatory itself and on the adjoining grounds, each with its own theme, as well as a number of outdoor gardens. Visitors are greeted by a green engineered Welcome Center topped by a neo-Victorian dome. The Phipps Conservatory has silver-level LEED certification.

The Phibbs Cafe, a Green Restaurant Certified eating establishment, includes vegan, vegetarian and Meatless Monday offerings provide eco-conscious options for guests. The Cafe uses real silverware and dishes instead of disposables, and any paper products they do use are 100% compostable. Nearly all (96%) of café food and other material waste is also recycled and composted. They serve organic, local and sustainable foods from family farms support environmentally-friendly practices and the local economy. Filtered water is used over bottled water to help eliminate petroleum-based plastic bottles from production and the waste stream.

As part of their mission to offer fresh, organic and locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs, some of the produce even comes directly from Phibbs’ organic edible garden. Meat, dairy and eggs used are also locally sourced as frequently as possible. Even the children’s menu features whole grains, organic fruits and vegetables, and ingredients that are minimally processed, low fat and low salt with no/low added sugar. They have also eliminated high-sugar beverages , including soda, replacing them with fresh-squeezed fruit juices.

Farm to Table

It’s not just the buildings that are green in Pittsburgh; some of the city’s most popular restaurants have embraced sustainability in their cooking.  At Salt of the Earth, located in Garfield neighborhood, chef Kevin Sousa creates a menu based on core items which are available throughout the season, while including  items that consistently change, taking advantage of local and seasonal product while it is in its prime. The restaurant does not hand out menus, instead, diners can read the selection off of the large chalkboard wall, or pull up it up on their smartphones.

The Fairmont Hotel is home to Habitat, a fine-dining establishment where Executive Chef Andrew Morrison locally sources his ingredients to highlight the flavors of the season and of the region. The restaurant boasts a ‘one-cow’ hamburger, promising that your burger will made with the meat from one local cow, not many. The restaurant is part of the Buy Fresh Buy Local and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Even the menus are made from all-local FSC paper and recycled materials.

As Pittsburgh continue to embrace change, its industrial past is giving way to a sustainable future. And what a naturally bright future it is.

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