Green like you’ve never seen
Pittsburgh is a great place to debut the new Green Museums series, with stories and best green practices from a spectrum of botanic gardens, museums, history and science centers, and specialty institutions.
- Part I Early Adopters: Stories of the Childrens Museum of Pittsburgh, Heinz History Center, and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. Link to Part I.
- Part II Green Scene and Unseen: Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Powdermill Nature Reserve, Zoo/Aquarium, Carnegie Science Center, and National Aviary. Link to Part II
- Part II 12 Nifty Ideas That Add Up (sidebar story). Link to sidebar
- Part III In our Lifetime: Creating the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden from a 450-acre brownfields. Link to Part III (just added)
In the decade since I first visited Pittsburgh to scope out several trend-setting green museum projects, all of the early adopters have moved to the next level, with new sustainability projects that benefit kids, the community and the planet.
Pittsburgh itself has been born again as one of the greenest cities in the US. It is touted as one of the cleanest cities (Forbes), one of the best places to visit (National Geographic), and one of the nation’s most livable places. In 2009, Pittsburgh was selected as the site of the G20. It leads in the number of LEED™ certified buildings, including institutions focused on art, history, science and kids. But no one is resting on their laurels.
The place that 19th-century writer James Parton called “hell with the lid off,” was an industrial engine that helped build the nation and influenced the US economy (in the 20th-century, Pittsburgh helped win World War II), with steel, aluminum, glass and chemicals. Several of its industries were so dirty that people are still cleaning up sites and remaining brownfields. That includes the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, which is reclaiming and remediating a 460-acre site with active coal seams, acres of abandoned mines and streams polluted with acid mine runoff. Not for the faint of heart!
The remnants of “old Pittsburgh” are now 21st-century assets— miles of waterfront, historic buildings, warehouses suited for reuse, brownfields ready for reclamation, a multiplicity of neighborhoods with rich traditions and ethnic backgrounds.
Add to that a well-established urban redevelopment authority (around since the 1940s) , generations of committed community leaders, universities with design and technology know-how, and generous foundations.
“Green like you’ve never seen!” That’s how Richard V. Piacentini describes his own institution –known as “Phipps”–arguably one of the world’s greenest botanic gardens. But he could be talking about Pittsburgh’s museums overall — they enjoy a big footprint in the world of sustainability and green design.