Pitt Plans “Blue, Gold, and Green” Sustainability Festival

Issue Date: 
March 30, 2009

The public’s embrace of sustainability in recent years has delighted the environmentally conscious, but green ideas in action can seem elusive in day-to-day life. To spotlight sustainable lifestyles and innovations in Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh will showcase the businesses, artists, and thinkers that help bring green to fruition with the “Blue, Gold, and Green” sustainability festival on April 9 at the William Pitt Union (WPU) and nearby Schenley Plaza.

The festival features local artists and food vendors, live music, and expositions by companies actively reducing the human footprint. Speakers from local organizations and government such as Pittsburgh “bike czar” Stephen Patchan and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will join Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg in exploring large-scale efforts to shape Pittsburgh’s environmental awareness. Students, staff, and faculty members from local universities will create art from trash, exhibit biofueled cars, and build bicycles for underprivileged children, among other activities. A full schedule and event details are available on the festival Web site, www.bluegoldandgreen.pitt.edu

A sustainability expo in the WPU kicks off the festival at 9 a.m. and continues until 1:30 p.m. In the Assembly Room, local and national companies, from Dormont Appliance Center to Apple Computer, will exhibit steps they’ve taken to work conservation into their business plans. Departments from Pitt will highlight sustainability projects and initiatives at the University. The Union’s Ballroom will contain walk-through displays of two offices, a laboratory, and a dorm room outfitted with sustainably designed products. In the Union’s Kurtzman Room, Pitt student groups will host a “Sustain-A-Bowl” that features booths constructed from salvaged and/or recyclable materials—with no Styrofoam, duct tape, or harsh paints allowed—as well as an art exhibition constructed of “dumpster diving” treasures. WPTS-FM, Pitt’s student radio station, will DJ.

The speaker symposium begins at 9 a.m. with topics ranging from building a park in postindustrial Pittsburgh to home composting. Brief descriptions of selected presentations follow; all sessions are in WPU.

9 a.m.— Lower Lounge; Philip Gruszka of the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will explain how to create a green space in an urban environment.

10 a.m.
—Dining Room B; Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker joins Pittsburgh Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Stephen Patchan to report on projects intended to enhance the city’s quality of life by encouraging bike riding and making Pittsburgh bike-friendly.

11:15 to 11:45 a.m.
—Lower Lounge; Chancellor Nordenberg and Mayor Ravenstahl will illustrate the University’s and the city government’s actions to encourage and enable sustainability.

1 p.m.—Lower Lounge; Georgia Petropoulos, executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, and senior planner Jason Kambitsis of the Pittsburgh Department of City Planning will highlight efforts to move Oakland and other neighborhoods toward sustainability via recycling programs, green-building initiatives, community farmers’ markets, and better land use. In Dining Room B, Lauren Seiple, composting coordinator for the Pennsylvania Resources Council, will offer guidance for harvesting rainwater for on-site use and converting kitchen scraps into organic fertilizer.

10:30 a.m.
—The Union’s sidewalk and driveway along Fifth Avenue will become a street fair and food court with such local food vendors as Maggie’s Mercantile and Right by Nature. Environmentally friendly vehicles will be parked nearby beginning at 9 a.m., including an Allegheny County Port Authority hybrid bus, two vehicles converted by Pitt students to run on waste vegetable oil, a carpooling/vanpooling display from CommuteInfo, and a selection of hybrid cars from Baierl Automotive.

Noon to 2 p.m.
—WPU lawn; student teams from local universities will compete against a Pitt team in a series of challenges that involve earning bike parts, constructing a bike, and racing it at the end of the event. With help from Pitt’s School of Social Work, each team will donate its bike, a helmet, and a bike lock to underprivileged children who will be in attendance.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
—Schenley Plaza; the nomadic I Made It! Market will host local crafters and artists displaying natural, organic, fair trade, and repurposed jewelry, clothing, lotions, soaps, and kitchen and household items. Representatives from Pittsburgh Public Works will be on site to explain the city’s new recycling program, with an appearance by the recycling division’s mascot, Buster the Recycling Raccoon. Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is sponsoring free rides on the PNC Carousel from noon to 5 p.m.

Live music begins at noon in the Schenley Plaza Oval with an acoustic set by Pittsburgh folk rocker Bill Deasy, followed by a country act, The Alli Gillis Band, from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Local funksters No Bad Ju Ju will close out the festival from 2:45 to 4 p. m.

In organizing the event, Pitt abided by the festival’s green principles, including printing posters and postcards on recycled paper with soy inks, reusing foam poster boards from past University events, and decorating the event with Velcro banners that can be “erased” and reused.