Pittsburgh's Green Transformation

Before visiting Pittsburgh, I envisioned an industrial city, with buildings, factories, and pavement sitting on every inch of ground and a blanket of smog above the city.  I assumed that the air quality in Pittsburgh was poor and the rivers were polluted from factories and barges.  When I moved to Pittsburgh for school, I realized I had misjudged Pittsburgh.  As many people outside of the area do, I had thought that Pittsburgh was still the steel mill center that it had been for the first half of the 20th Century.

When I started to explore the city, I saw bike lanes on many of the streets. There were numerous green spaces and parks in every neighborhood.  People were kayaking and rowing on the rivers.  Public transportation was readily available, extensive, and easy to use. As a student without a car, I was able to get anywhere I wanted to go simply by hopping on a bus. Pittsburgh was not what I had expected. The city has undergone an extraordinary green metamorphosis.

Everywhere, you see evidence of this green transformation still going on in Pittsburgh.  Brownfields are becoming new construction sites and valuable waterfronts. New buildings are built to be efficient and sustainable.  Railroad tracks are becoming bike paths.  Vacant factories are being reused through renovation, thus avoiding unnecessary new construction. There are numerous, specific examples throughout the city of the green movement:

  • The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is the world’s first green convention center
  • There are abundant resources in Pittsburgh to help residents, businesses, and government to become more sustainable, from the Green Building Alliance to Sustainable Pittsburgh.
  • Phipps Conservatory is the first LEED certified visitor center in a public garden
  • Pittsburgh has been chosen to be the North American host for World Environment Day on June 5th, 2010.

What most impresses me about the green movement in Pittsburgh is how much of it is grassroots.  I think this is also what makes the movement so strong.  So many residents are creating and being active in local, green organizations.  Finding a green event to attend, on any given day in Pittsburgh, is an easy task.

Pittsburgh illustrates that being green does not mean that you have to start with a clean slate and building up.  Green is how a city can renew itself.  I’m proud to call Pittsburgh my home.

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