Pittsburgh ranked 10th cleanest city

Pittsburgh’s come a long way from its steel factory days. The city was voted the 10th cleanest city in the world by Forbes magazine on April 16, ranking it alongside such cities as Montreal, Vancouver, and Geneva.

Cities that made the cut were noted for their democracy and industrialization, specifically recycling efforts, waste control, transportation infrastructure, and energy generation and regulation, according to the magazine. Most of the cities were from countries with relatively high purchasing power — proof that a country has to have money to invest in green practices and can only sustain such practices if they produce a profit.

The list was derived from a study by Mercer Human Resources Consulting, which identified the overall quality of living of 300 cities around the world. The commonalities between highly ranked cities included focus on technology, education, extensive public transit, and headquartering of national and international companies.

With seven colleges and universities in the immediate area, the PAT system, and home bases for American Eagle and the Heinz Corporation, Pittsburgh fits the bill. And Carnegie Mellon, a producer of cutting edge technology, has made major contributions to the improvement of Pittsburgh and, hence, its ranking on the list.

“Carnegie Mellon played a very central role in doing analysis on how to clean up the air here in Pittsburgh and continues to be very active in that area,” said Granger Morgan, head of the department of engineering and public policy.

The university has pioneered projects in reusing old industrial lands and producing green buildings, Morgan said.

The Brownfields Center, located in the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (SEER) within the the department of civil and environmental engineering, has been particularly involved in the re-development of old industrial sites throughout the city.

Over the past few years, more than $800 million has been invested in the restoration of Pittsburgh’s old industrial riverfront. One of these projects was the creation of the South Side Works, formerly an old steel site. The Center, headed by Deborah Lange, director of SEER, collaborates with the city on these projects.

“[Civil and environmental engineering] faculty participate in various regional environmental initiatives,” said Jim Garrett, professor of civil and environmental engineering and associate dean of the Carnegie Institute of Technology.

Garrett pointed to a number of efforts of Carnegie Mellon Green Practices that have had a regional impact, including the Hamerschlag Hall green roof project and the Southwestern PA Household Hazardous Waste (SWPA HHW) Task Force.

The Hamerschlag project involved applying a layer of soil and planting grasses, flowering plants, and other vegetation on the roof of the building and installing equipment to monitor rain runoff, solar energy, temperature, and several other factors. The project, completed in 2005, was one of the first green roofs established for research within Pittsburgh. The project was completed in conjunction with the 3 Rivers Wet Weather Stormwater Advisory Panel on which civil and environmental engineering professor David Dzombak serves.

The SWPA HHW Task Force was developed in 2002 as the result of a meeting at Carnegie Mellon. The organization provides funds and events to help Pittsburgh residents dispose of household materials in an environmentally friendly way.

Green Practices is currently working on adapting the same type of program on campus.

“We have recycle bins everywhere. You can recycle anything,” said Alexa Huth, a sophomore professional writing major and public relations intern for Green Practices. “I think that gets people to recycle on campus and then outside of campus, which helps the city. Our big thing right now is recycling.”

Green Practices is also working to get all campus buildings LEED certified. The organization also has installed solar panels on Craig Street, Huth said.
“Since our campus is in Oakland, we do a lot of things for the city just because we’re here,” she said.

Green Practices is also undergoing efforts to increase the use of alternative transportation in Pittsburgh. The group recently produced a short segment for WQED on the importance of biking and riding the bus.

Huth believes that the university’s initiative to provide unlimited bus transportation for Carnegie Mellon students contributes to this effort.

“It gets [students] used to it and shows them that it’s not hard to catch a bus,” Huth said. “Public transportation really does need to be utilized more, and the bus pass system really encourages that.”

In addition, Pittsburgh was rated the most livable city in the nation in the 2007 edition of Rand McNally’s Places Rated Almanac, which was recently released. The city topped the list once before in 1985, but is also the only city to make the top 20 in every edition. The almanac rated 350 metro areas on factors such as housing, transportation, jobs, education, climate, crime, health care, recreation and ambience.