WPEA Winner Feature: Sustainable Pittsburgh

In the weeks leading up to the Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council will feature each of this year’s four award winners. With the Environmental Charter School, McKean County Conservation District, Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association, and Sustainable Pittsburgh set to be honored at the May 27 ceremony at Pittsburgh’s Westin Hotel and Convention Center, Sustainable Pittsburgh concludes our feature series of this year’s well-deserving honorees.

Sustainable Pittsburgh

Through 17 years of engagement with businesses, municipalities, and nonprofits, Sustainable Pittsburgh (SP) has maintained a strong pulse on the region’s sustainability challenges and opportunities.

Sustainable Pittsburgh photo 2From air and water quality to energy efficiency, recycling, and waste management, to land use and transportation, workforce development, healthy people, and economic prosperity, SP remains at the forefront of working with organizations to integrate more sustainable development for Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Sustainable Pittsburgh developed performance programs tailored to Southwestern Pennsylvania’s unique sustainability needs and opportunities. These are based on market-selected practices and peer-reviewed by knowledge experts. SP’s sustainability performance programs include: Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (for businesses, nonprofits, colleges/universities, local governments, and K-12 schools); Sustainable Small Business Designation (for small businesses); SWPA Sustainable Business Compact (for mid to large businesses); Sustainable Pennsylvania Community Certification (for municipalities and taken statewide in partnership with the Pennsylvania Municipal League); and Sustainable Pittsburgh Restaurants (now in development).

These voluntary programs provide a pathway for organizations to advance their sustainability goals and objectives, resulting in positive impacts for the organization, the local community, and for the region. Cost savings, healthier and engaged employees, and positive recognition are just a few of the benefits participants can derive. Together, SP’s sustainability performance programs have led hundreds of organizations of all sizes and types to implement best practices to conserve resources, save money, reduce emissions, and initiate the process of integrating the policy and practice of sustainability in their operations.

Many businesses implemented energy saving techniques including adjusting the power settings on computers and unplugging little-used appliances, electronic equipment, and lighting fixtures. Almost all of the certified sustainable municipalities are addressing water and stormwater management, air quality and beautification. Of the top ten actions completed, many businesses have affirmed their commitments to an inclusive, respectful and diverse workforce, demonstrated a commitment to energy efficiency, addressed strong financial performance, waste reduction, water efficiency, and reusing existing building structures.

Participation in these programs recognizes organizations for implementing actions that are simultaneously good for their bottom line, the environment, and the social fabric of their communities. Participants are showing their intentions to improve their sustainability performance and as such stand out as valuable contributors within their communities. Recognition through these programs helps consumers identify and choose those entities that are committed to sustainability and that view sustainability as core to their mission and business model.

Over the past two Green Workplace Challenges, nearly 100 employers from throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania took over 2,000 actions saving $7.4 million in energy costs and enough water to fill Heinz Field 233 feet deep. Participants reduced carbon emissions by 22,821 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which translates to almost four full days’ worth of all flights leaving Pittsburgh International Airport.