Earth Day comes around every April, but caring for the planet is a yearlong effort requiring all of us to do our part. The theme for Earth Day this year is Invest in Our Planet, and it calls for us to work together and take action to “preserve and protect our health, our families, our livelihoods.”
We recently looked into some ways that Pittsburgh is falling short in its environmental health and the organizations focusing on finding sustainable and equitable solutions. Here are just three ways we believe Pittsburgh can “invest in our planet” and continue to build a healthy city and equitable future.
Choose green infrastructure
As more outdated stormwater management systems continue to expose communities to harmful substances, many are turning to green infrastructure as a sustainable and natural solution to improve water quality. According to American Rivers, green infrastructure is “an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle, and incorporates both the natural environment and engineered systems to provide clean water, conserve ecosystem values and functions, and provide a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.”
There are several benefits to installing green infrastructure, such as incorporating natural resources, enhancing safety and health, and providing economic benefits and cost savings. Pittsburgh can invest in the planet and the health and well-being of our neighbors by adding things like green roofs, rainwater harvesting, trees and vegetation, or permeable and porous pavements.
Local building and design professionals who want to learn more can take our National Green Infrastructure Certification course.
Commit to sustainable practices
Whether you are one person, a family of four, or the leader of an organization, there are so many things we can all be doing to care for each other and our earth. On an individual and household level, we can make seemingly small changes like switching to reusable bags and water bottles, composting, switching to a 100% renewable energy supplier, and using environmentally friendly cleaning and hygiene products. We can also create daily habits to conserve energy and volunteer with local efforts. Workplaces and business leaders can also make an impact. Try setting up a recycling program, swapping out office products for more environmentally friendly ones, and supporting green vendors.
We can also encourage our community leaders to make big changes by advocating for climate education, community-wide clean-up events, policy changes, and a switch to clean energy.
The actions may seem small and isolated but can make an impact felt for generations.
Empower the future workforce
The best way to invest in our planet? Invest in our future leaders. We are already seeing a group of motivated and enthusiastic activists concerned about climate change, equity, and changing our planet for the better. If we continue to empower this generation, listening to their challenges and ideas, we can all work together for a better future.
One way we’re doing this in Pittsburgh is with our City Semester Pittsburgh program for Penn State students. We have had more than 50 students participate in the program, which includes a class on urban sustainability and an internship with local community organizations working in sustainability. These students have engaging discussions on things like climate action, urban equality, clean energy, and more, while getting a firsthand experience making an impact on the community.
Every day can be Earth Day if we start now.