Pittsburgh's Environmental Renaissance
This is the story of one of the most dramatic environmental transformations in the world. So extreme was its makeover, in fact, that the city was named among the 20 great places in the world to experience in 2012 by National Geographic Traveler.
Over the past half-century, the Pittsburgh region has undergone the most extraordinary urban environmental transformation in modern history. The "Smoky City," now considered America's "Most Livable City," continues to rank among the top 10 cities in the United States for green certified building space.
And while much more work remains, the story of the historic public-private partnerships that transformed the environment of this region is an inspiring tale of an urban renaissance that saved a major American city from environmental catastrophe.
Pittsburgh was once the poster child of industrial pollution... "a scene so dreadfully hideous and bleak that it reduced the whole aspiration of man to a depressing joke," according to American journalist H.L. Mencken. In 1868, James Parton reported the infamous line about Pittsburgh when he called it "Hell with the lid taken off."
Since then, the community has eliminated its infamous smoke problem and has invested in our rivers and trails. We helped nurse our beloved three rivers back to health – so healthy that they are today home to the world's top professional fishing tournaments. We have created some of the most popular outdoor recreational amenities in the eastern United States. Western Pennsylvania has become one of the nation's best examples of rails-to-trails conversion, with hundreds of miles of rail trails, including the Great Allegheny Passage, which links Downtown Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., and stands out as one of the country's great trail systems.
It's fitting that Pittsburgh, the birthplace of renowned environmentalist Rachel Carson, is today a national leader in the environmental movement and a green model for cities all over the globe. Pittsburgh has set an example by renewing, reclaiming and redeveloping its environment through a series of lasting public-private partnerships going back more than 65 years – from the first air quality legislation to robust reclamation of Brownfield sites and river cleanups during the past 25 years.
Today, we are the materials innovator and supplier for a greener global economy, leveraging our world-class manufacturing capabilities to create better-performing green products and building technologies. Pittsburgh is a "Top 10 Metro" for Green Jobs (Global Insight) and Pennsylvania has more than 5,000 green building product manufacturers employing 200,000 people.
Pittsburgh is proud to be home to more than 37 green-certified buildings, including the first green college residence hall and Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is pursuing a net-zero energy and water designation as a "Living Building" for its Center for Sustainable Landscapes, scheduled to open in April 2012. This is a direct result of this region's green agenda and strong commitment to environmental stewardship.
Illustrating that commitment is the fact that the Pittsburgh G20 Summit was held in 2009 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the world's first green convention center. The facility is proud to have earned LEED® Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for leadership in energy and environmental design.
Pittsburgh is indeed green, and ripe for discovery!