Celebrate Pittsburgh Earth Day 2016: From Steel to Sustainable

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By Abby Dudley | Photographs from John Colombo, by Catherine Palladino


Last October, Pittsburgh made ecological history when the Tower at PNC Plaza opened its doors as one of the greenest high rises in the world. The building, a glimmering beacon in the heart of Downtown, is an innovative feat so sustainable that it surpasses the criteria for LEED Platinum certification. Its construction in Pittsburgh is indicative of the green mentality of the city and its continuing movement to buy local. Not bad for a city that, only 60 years ago, was so heavy with smog that it earned the nickname “Hell with the lid off!” This year’s Earth Day, as it coincides with the Pittsburgh Bicentennial, is in celebration of that growth. “Pittsburgh Earth Day: From Steel to Sustainable 2016 is proud to be a part of Pittsburgh’s Bicentennial and to have become globally officiated by The Earth Day Network,” says Ronda Zegarelli, president of Acrobatique Creative, and branding partner and executive producer of Pittsburgh Earth Day with Events Organizer Gina Vensel of Easy Street Promotions. “For this year’s events, we wanted to represent our past steel heritage and highlight our city’s continued advancement to green innovation.” Read on for this year’s schedule of events that honor the city’s extraordinary achievements. For more information, visit pittsburghearthday.org or follow @PghEarthDay on Twitter and Instagram. Keep up and weigh in with #PghEarthDay.


 Thursday, April 21

Ecolution Fashion Show
6-10 p.m. at Fairmont Pittsburgh

Local fashion designers stunned as their eco-inspired couture paraded down the runway in the lobby of Fairmont Pittsburgh last year. Their designs, crafted from recycled and reused materials and inspired by the seasons, were the highlight of the happy hour event.

This year, the catwalk is even bigger. Relocated to the Fairmont main ballroom, the fashion show, titled “The Elements,” will be in the style of a New York runway and feature 16 different designs by local artists, curated by Richard Parsakian. “As one of the city’s Bicentennial events, Acrobatique is proud to celebrate green innovation in an artistic way at ‘Ecolution,’” says Zegarelli. While the models, with hair and makeup by Izzazu Salon, Spa, & Serata, strut their stuff, attendees will enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and live music.

Tickets are also being sold for a special VIP pre-show reception, which will take place from 6-7 p.m. For every ticket purchased, $25 will benefit the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and you’ll receive a complimentary one-year membership as well as a free drink on the night of the show! Plus, designers will be competing against each other, hoping their innovative creations win over the panel of expert judges: Eric Shiner of the Andy Warhol Museum, Demeatria Boccella of Fashion Africana, and Karin Legato of Emphatics. Says Julie Walsh of Acrobatique, “Crafted exclusively for Pittsburgh Earth Day by local designers, the eco-fashions will be entered to win one of four award stipends provided by Larrimor’s for the most creative costume.” Green has never looked so chic!

↓ Local models worked the runway in recycled couture inspired by the seasons.
One of 2015’s winning designs

One of 2015’s winning designs

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 Friday, April 22

Pittsburgh Earth Day Press Conference
Friday morning at the city county building

In honor of the momentous day, a speaker from the mayor’s office will hold a press conference addressing the environmental strides that the city has made. The thoughtful presentation will showcase Pittsburgh businesses that are embracing sustainability and making the city shine as a global, ecological economy. Rivers of Steel will provide 200 artifacts to display in the lobby of the City Council Building, all representing Pittsburgh’s colorful history. Alongside the display will be the Hard Hat Art Project, a local art exhibit that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the hard hat.

Last year, in Mellon Square Park, local vendors came out in droves to present their exceptional products to consumers.

Last year, in Mellon Square Park, local vendors came out in droves to present their exceptional products to consumers.

Business Breakfast
8-10 a.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center

Those leading the charge towards Pittsburgh’s elite ecological standing will speak on a panel moderated by John Valentine, executive director of Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation. Among those addressing the audience will be Grant Ervin, chief resilience officer and sustainability manager for the Office of Mayor Bill Peduto; Lucas Piatt, president and COO of Millcraft Investments; Scott Lammie, CFO and SVP of UPMC Insurance Services Division; Geoff Muessig, CMO and executive vice president of Pitt Ohio; and Brett Robinson, president of Terra Building Group. “When I moved here 12 years ago, all you heard was Pittsburgh was 10 years behind the times,” says Valentine. “Today, people and organizations from all over the world come here to learn from us.” Tickets are free, but space is limited, so be sure to make a reservation!

Food Truck Festival
11 a.m.-2 p.m. on 10th Street by the David L. Lawrence Convention Center

For lunch, eat your way through the Food Truck Festival, stationed right outside of the convention center. In honor of the day, the impressive lineup of the city’s favorite mobile restaurants will be entirely solar-powered — maybe the greenest food truck roundup in the country! Here’s a taste of the cuisine in attendance:

  BRGR
  BullDawgs
  Burgh Bites
  Cool Beans FoodTruck
  Franktuary
  Nakama
  Oh My Grill
  Pizzaiolo Primo
  Randita’s Vegan Cafe
  Second Breakfast
  Wok of Life

Paint the Square Green
11 a.m.-5 p.m. in Market Square

In addition to featuring more musical acts, Market Square will be flooded with local, eco-friendly vendors for a world market that will offer a diverse range of goods and services. Market Square itself represents the resilience of Pittsburgh, as it’s been revitalized and repurposed to become a central hub of culture, shopping, and culinary excellence. The all-day outdoor event is an opportunity to explore the impressive talent being cultivated right in the city.

Lunchtime Concerts
11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Mellon Square Park

Stop by to hear musicians performing in a series of outdoor concerts at Mellon Square Park. As Pittsburgh Earth Day celebrates all things local, the shows will feature local talents across many genres.

Attendees at the lunchtime concerts for Pittsburgh Earth Day 2015.

Attendees at the lunchtime concerts for Pittsburgh Earth Day 2015.

Art & Local Showcase
5-9 p.m. at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center

The day comes to an end in the early evening with a curated cultural extravaganza of music, art, and local vendors. The evening, with activities for guests of all ages, will commemorate the core of the day and its Pittsburgh-specific origins and be a stop on the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Gallery Crawl. The convention center will be filled with those celebrating the success of a full day of events!

The Commoner provided a tasty punch for last year’s Earth Day Happy Hour.

The Commoner provided a tasty punch for last year’s Earth Day Happy Hour.

+ Be sure to check out the “Foodies” tab on Pittsburgh Earth Day’s website to find restaurants that are celebrating the holiday, too!


Saturday, April 23

Steel to Sustainable Festival
7-11 p.m. at the Carrie Blast Furnaces

Local food, craft beer, live music, and the Hard Hat Project will be featured at the ticketed evening that benefits Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. The venue, Carrie Blast Furnaces, is a historical landmark in Braddock that overlooks the Monongahela River and is a relic of pre-World War II iron-making. The repurposed mill is a perfect analogy for Pittsburgh and this year’s interpretation of Earth Day — that from a city whose specialty has died out comes a resilient and innovative approach to the future.

The Sustainability Soirée 2015

The Sustainability Soirée 2015


Sunday, April 24

TEDxPittsburgh Brunch

Local TEDx speakers will share stories and information over brunch about Pittsburgh’s future as a leader in industry and innovation. Visit pittsburghearthday.org to stay updated on this exciting event!


Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is celebrating Earth Day, too! The grand opening of the Butterfly Forest takes place on April 22 to kick off a weekend in honor of celebrating the planet. Check out these events, free with admission! For more information, visit phipps.conservatory.org.

4/22 — Environmental Film Series Kick-off Event
4/23 — Center for Sustainable Landscapes Tour
4/24 — Let’s Move Pittsburgh’s Free Family Yoga (partnering with One WHIRL Yoga Fest + Healthy Lifestyle Expo on July 23!)
4/25 — Special Meatless Monday Menu


Pittsburgh Earth Day is made possible by Acrobatique Creative, Easy Street Promotions, UPMC Health Plan, Pitt Ohio, Millcraft Investments, Revel + Roost, Port Authority, Dollar Bank, Visit Pittsburgh, Eons Fashion Antique, ZipCar, Carmeuse, Baierl Subaru, Terra Building Group, Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Chipotle, Chatham University/Falk School of Sustainability, EverGreen Facility Services, Fairmont Pittsburgh, Izzazu Salon, Spa, & Serata, The Yards at 3 Crossings, and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
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