Environmental efforts apparent in Pittsburgh

Written By JOUR 257 Feature Writing

Just as we did on Valentine’s Day, The Globe has once again partnered with Professor Helen Fallon’s Feature Writing class– this time ahead of Earth Day. Student went out during class to find stories of Pittsburgh’s strides toward a greener world.

PRC breaks down progressive recycling standard

By Nicole Pampena

After finishing your street food, you get up to throw the waste away and see not one trash can, but three. Each are labeled: “Recycle,” “Trash only,” and “Compostable.”

You scratch your head and for the first time consider what you’re holding in your hand, suddenly having to decide where it belongs. It would be easy to just throw it all in the trash like normal, but that would defeat the mission of the Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC).

A member of PRC’s Green Team rushes up, and politely directs where to dispose your items.

The three trash cans are a common staple at events like the Three Rivers Arts Festival thanks to a partnership between the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and PRC. According to Emily Palmer, PRC’s Zero Waste Events Manager, this partnership began in 2009.

These efforts fall under the Zero Waste Program which, according to PRC’s website, “maximize the recovery of resources we commonly throw away in our everyday lives.” Aggressive strategies within the program have the potential to recover the resource value of over 90% of waste.

Palmer said the 90% goal has been reached in the past at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. This number is called the “diversion rate” that is calculated by weighing the materials being composted.

“Common throwaways,” such as cups, forks, paper boats, straws and food scraps, are all compostable at Three Rivers Arts Festival, meaning they more easily break down into the soil rather than pile up in a landfill.

Palmer said acquiring these materials goes through a third-party candidate. For the Three Rivers Arts Festival, this is the Biodegradable Products Institute.

“So, they will run through different tests to see how many days it takes to break down,” Palmer said.

Compost and recycling requirements depend on the event. Palmer said PRC has not gone as far as having a fee for not composting due to the sorting and hauling process.

“It comes down to cost and time to try and get it right.”


Daily sustainability challenges students

By Jordyn Hronec

Students in Matthew Opdyke’s Environmental Science, or NSET 150 class, study everything from geological processes to ecosystems to air pollution. According to Opdyke, the theme of the class this semester is climate change.

Recently, students had the opportunity to face what they were learning head-on by participating in the I Am Sustainable Pittsburgh online challenge.

The challenge consisted of daily challenges, meant to reduce the use of plastics, water and nonrenewable resources. There were also challenges meant to increase healthy living practices and outdoor appreciation. When challenges were completed, students could earn points towards their own scores, as well as Point Park’s team score.

Challenges were organized into categories such as “Simplicity,” “Energy,” “Waste,” “Water” and “Health.” The difficulty of the challenges varied and included tasks such as taking five-minute showers in order to conserve water, adopting a “needs vs. wants” purchasing approach to reduce waste and switching to cold water when washing clothes in order to conserve energy. There were daily tasks as well as simpler tasks that were to be completed only once.

The challenge officially began on February 27, and lasted until March 20. Students didn’t begin the challenge until March 6, where Opdyke offered extra credit points to students who earned over 100 points. Even more extra credit was offered to students who beat Opdyke in the challenge.

One student in the class, Marcyssa Brown, a senior sports, arts and entertainment major, earned 411 points total by completing tasks such as eating at restaurants that use sustainable practices and walking to destinations rather than driving.

One of the challenges that Brown took on involved reducing the amount of mail she received.

“I found the ‘reduce unwanted mail’ challenge the most interesting,” Brown said. “It’s shocking how much mail you get that you don’t need to get. By just going on websites you can reduce getting paper mail delivered to you.”

Brown also participated in a challenge that prompted her to turn down her thermostat to conserve energy.

“By turning down my temperature I save money and the environment,” Brown said. “After a couple of days, I got used to the temperature and kept turning it down.”


Dining service debuts food waste reduction

By Miriah Auth

With Earth Day just around the corner, the dining services staff has been engaging in a waste not program.

“We have everyone throw vegetable scraps in bins and we measure how much scrap we’re producing,” Clint Shearer, dining services Executive Chef, said. “The last couple weeks, we’ve been doing tests, trying to reduce how much food waste we have.”

This “Waste Not” initiative is part of the Compass Group (which includes CulinArt) commitment to reduce food waste by 25% by 2020, according to their website.

“At the end of the day, we record the waste and send it off and we look at the data to see where we can cut waste,” Shearer said. “This is all about waste month, a program all the sectors of Compass Group partake in.”

The dining services also donate unused food to 412 Food Rescue, an organization whose mission is to prevent “perfectly good food from entering the waste stream,” according to their website.

“If we have any extras left over that we’re not going to be able to use, we call them up and let them know,” dining services General Manager, Katie Jacob, said. “What we have to offer them varies on a day to day basis. We do call them as much as we can.”

Point Park’s on campus food provider donates food from catering events hosted by the dining services.

“If they order 300 box lunches and only 150 people show up, we’re sitting on boxed lunches,” Shearer said. “As long as we’re making sure they’re being held properly at the right temperature, we call them as soon as we can.”

While there are no composting bins on campus, the dining services tries to eliminate waste by providing compostable to-go containers.

“We have bamboo plates that we use for different events,” Jacob said. “A lot of the to go containers are made of sugar cane, which breaks down better than plastic.”

The dining services strives to reduce waste out of personal responsibility.

“A ton of food comes through here and it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re using it properly and making sure it’s not going bad on us and we’re not overproducing it,” Shearer said.


Carpool for two

By Caitlin Hildebrand

Preserving the air from exhaust is a good way to start helping the quality of it not only from slowly getting weaker by the emissions from automobiles but from losing precious money in bank accounts.

Megan Hannigan, 26, likes to carpool with her boyfriend, Garret Shinley, 27, for this reason. They both take turns when carpooling to work. Shinley works at the Carnegie Science Center as a custodian wile Hannigan works at a KeyBank on 300 Six Avenue. They both travel from West Mifflin to get to their jobs. Each worker finds this idea of taking turns driving easy due to how close they are to each other.

“It’s not really close but it’s not too far either. We have to talk about who drives what day and who parks it where,” Hannigan said on her lunch break from work.

Hannigan had the idea of carpooling in order to save up money. Shinley agreed easily and they started this new habit about a week later. The couple is new at this idea as it has only been a month or so since this started. Together, they have saved hundreds now that they frequently use one car.

So far, not only has this method saved money they can put towards their future, but it has been friendly to the world as well. Hannigan believes that whatever contribution she can give is a step in the right direction.

“Garret agrees too,” Hannigan said. “This thought was about the money but it’s also nice that it helps the environment.”

On their days off from work they practice the same routine. They don’t see why the practice should only happen during work day. It is performed on their days off as well. They do not feel like it convenient for them to take a bus when going places due to the items they carry around with them that they can easily and safely keep in a car.

“I begged Garret if we can do this on our days off,” Hannigan said. “He didn’t want to at first since we both have lives outside of work but compromised with me by driving with me every other weekend then the both of us drive separately on some weekends.”

The schedule for them is confusing and hectic but worth it. The pair has a goal to continue this plan for as long as possible. They believe they can for the future and the sake of saving the air safety.


Recharge: Recycling in media services

By Sarah Gibson

When the subject is raised of businesses becoming more environmentally friendly, rarely are technological services thought of. But Student Production Services (SPS) and the Center for Media Innovation (CMI) at Point Park University are changing that by using as little waste as possible.

The University Center, in which SPS is located, hosts several shows every week for Point Park’s student-run television station, U-View, along with hosting classes for the Conservatory of Performing Arts. It also gives cinema students a place to shoot if needed. Ayla Reed-Porter, a student worker at SPS and Freshman multimedia major at Point Park University, noted how SPS tries to reduce their carbon footprint technologically.

“All of the batteries for cameras and stuff are all rechargeable. It’s a lot more cost effective and green that way,” they said. “But in truth, I think most larger cameras have rechargeable batteries because of how big they are.”

As for the batteries that aren’t rechargeable, there’s a way that the employees keep track of how many they need.

“There’s like, a little thing that we can put on regular batteries that tells us if they’re dead or not. I’d argue that it’s green because we’re not throwing away good batteries and being wasteful” they said, “I’ve done that at home, where I buy more batteries because I think my batteries are dead, but they’re not and it’s wasteful.”

Taylor Spirito, another SPS worker, sophomore broadcast reporting major and U-View producer, explained the process through which SPS tries to save paper through U-View’s lense.

“We have to print out scripts for each of our reporters and full scripts for the anchors,” Spirito said. “Then we have to print rundowns for all of our crew. It’s a lot of paper. So, at the end of the night, we take our papers and give them to Dale, who makes sure that those papers are turned over and put blank side up in the printer. After they’re used a second time, we put them in a special recycling bin so we’re not just throwing it away.”

Spirito, who has done other work at the CMI, noted that the CMI is also weary of their battery usage.

“The CMI’s batteries are all completely rechargeable,” she said. “I think it’s all a wonderful way to keep our section of the school green.”


‘Every day is Earth Day’

By Megan McKenzie

As Earth Day approaches, various groups rally for environmental protection and an emphasis on green habits reemerges, but some students at Point Park have treated every day like Earth Day.

Sadie Luckenbach, 18, originally from Colombus, Ohio and a freshman dance major at Point Park, was raised by a family who recycles.

“My whole family has recycled since as long as I’ve been alive,” Luckenbach said. Personally, she began recycling when she was 14 years old.

Recycling was something her parents always did, and her older sister later started emphasizing ways to conserve other than recycling, and how she can maintain the habits.

“I try to limit my use of plastics and Styrofoam and use reusable items,” Ms. Luckenbach said. “It’s a process of limiting my use of non-biodegradable stuff.”

Makenna Davies, 19, a freshmen film major and Pittsburgh native, began recycling in the sixth grade, inspired by her music teacher. “I was drinking water out of a plastic bottle one day and was going to throw it in the regular trash when he stopped me,” she recalled. “He told me to recycle it and explained why it was so important. Ever since then, I make sure to recycle everything I can.”

Ms. Davies also likes to repurpose items that would normally count as trash.

“I cut up an old cereal box and used it as drawer dividers,” she gave as an example.

While Tatyana Johnson, 21, a sophomore psychology major from New Castle, recycles too, she emphasized the importance of environmental issues beyond recycling. “It’s important to be aware of fracking and protecting our waters,” she said. She also practices veganism to be conscious of toxic factory run-off, methane emission into the atmosphere, and deforestation.