City putting energy into first-of-kind initiative to go green

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How many Pittsburghers does it take to change a light bulb and make a difference in reducing global warming emissions?

According to the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and its Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign that kicked off yesterday: everyone.

The goal of the citywide campaign -- the first of its kind in the nation -- is to inspire broad-based participation from individuals, businesses, universities and governments to make a small lifestyle or operational change each month for the rest of the year that will save energy and money and reduce emissions of climate changing gases.

In March, everyone is urged to change light bulbs, ditching inefficient incandescents in favor of compact fluorescents that cost a little more but use a quarter of the electricity and last much longer.

Dr. Joylette Portlock, of Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future, who is heading the community outreach portion of the campaign, said that if every household in Pittsburgh screws in just one compact fluorescent light bulb the city's contribution to heat-trapping gases that cause global warming will be reduced by 24 million pounds each year.

"To get people to understand they can make a difference on climate change is a really a big challenge, but I think it will help to break it down to small things they can do in their lives that can make a difference," Dr. Portlock said. "If we give people the tools and knowledge, Pittsburgh can be a model for the nation."

The campaign's goal next month is to get everyone to reduce the setting on their hot water heater to 120 degrees because most are needlessly higher and that wastes energy and money. In May, they'll be asked to check the tire pressure and drive the speed limit to reduce gasoline consumption.

And a new Web site,, allows participants to track of the energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions they are making.

Similar energy savings projects are planned for Pittsburgh's municipal governments, colleges and universities and businesses. The $125,000 campaign, funded with a grant from the Surdna Foundation, will continue through the end of the year.

Pittsburgh officials have set a goal of reducing its emissions by 20 percent by 2023 and are supporting the new campaign with a series of energy saving and recycling initiatives.

"We want to produce a 'green' guide for city employees to use in the workplace that we hope carries over into their home life as well and serve as a model for the entire city," said Kristen Baginski, the mayor's deputy chief of staff.

Matthew Mehalik, program manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh, said the first meeting of a new Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan Steering Committee, consisting of 30 businessmen, will take place tomorrow and focus on strategies for reducing the business carbon footprint.

"We want to get the business community engaged about carbon dioxide reductions and show them they go hand in hand with energy savings and that means lower energy costs," Mr. Mehalik said.

The campaign is coordinated by the Green Building Alliance and grew out of the work of Pittsburgh's Green Government Task Force which produced a citywide greenhouse gas inventory of emissions in 2006 and produced a Climate Action Plan to reduce those emissions. The emissions inventory found that 72 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced in the Pittsburgh region are related to electricity generation.

"Every community needs to understand they have an impact on this," said Dr. Aurora Sharrard, the Green Building Alliance's research manager. "If they don't feel responsibility for it, we're not going to get the greenhouse gas emissions we need."

More information about the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative and the city's greenhouse gas inventory is available on the Web at More information about the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign is on the Web at

Don Hopey can be reached at or 412-263-1983.


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