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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Good Month For Biking

As if the freedom of the open road and saving money on a gym membership weren't enough reasons to hop on a bike this Spring, we have 3 new reasons in Pittsburgh:

1) Bike Parking.

In a 9-0 vote, council approved a measure that the planning commission approved last September. It would require developers to provide one bicycle parking space for every new project that is between 6,001 and 20,000 square feet and another space for every additional 10,000 square feet.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

CSAs and Our Contest Winner!

Random.org tells me that a random number between 1 and 15 is 7.

The lucky winner is SandyU. SandyU, please contact me, and I'll hook you up with your $50 gift card from Sonoma Grille and Seviche as promised last week!

SandyU commented that she uses Kretschmann Farms for her local food source via their CSA program. I participated in their CSA two summers ago and loved all the vegetables, so this is a great opportunity to highlight Kretschmann and CSAs in general. Unfortunately, my schedule and location make it easier for me to go to the Farmer's Markets than participate in a CSA but if you have a convenient drop-off location and a consistent schedule, I can't recommend them enough. CSAs encourage you to change up your recipes and cook more food on the fly. Plus, you end up trying vegetables that you'd be less likely to pick up normally. I learned that I love fennel because its pungent anise flavor mellows when it cooks. You'll also eat a ton more salads and make lots of friends when you give away any extra vegetables you can't eat. Their season begins the first week of June.

Friends also rave about Penn's Corner Farm Alliance for their variety of produce, cheeses, and other local products and their flexible plans. If you're desperate for fresh veggies, their "cabin fever" plan starts up next month April 13. They also have a "harvest" share that starts in June, and the full-season share which runs from April to November.

City of Pittsburgh Farmer's Markets should begin in May. With convenient locations throughout the city (and prices cheaper than most grocery stores), you have no excuse to not eat fresh local vegetables this summer.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Ways to Get Outdoors in Pittsburgh

Dust off those New Year's Resolutions. Pittsburgh is getting outside this Spring and Summer and coming soon there will be even more opportunities to do so. Frick Park and Schenley Park are the classic great outdoor city amenities of Pittsburgh. However, lately, they've had to make some room for the newcomers.

6 Up-and-Coming Outdoor Activities

  1. Grandview Park - Last year, this under-utilized park celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Mount Washington Community Development Corp. is in the process of mapping its trails and future plans for the park.
  2. Three Rivers - Point State Park has been under-going a renovation plan, and it's starting to look gorgeous. You can bring your own kayak and float along the rivers (or rent one from Venture Outdoors).
  3. Grandview Staircase - The developer of a hotel on Mt Washington is planning a grand staircase which parallels the incline. I can just imagine Rocky Balboa training on that staircase.
  4. South Side Park - This is a 65-acre park in the heart of the South Side Slopes which is largely ignored by everyone. The South Side Slopes Organization is trying to remedy that by focusing their efforts this year on cleaning up and publicizing this park. You can help by heading to the March 27 Reclaim and Revitalize the park event.
  5. Urban Hiking - Once again Venture Outdoors is the go-to group for urban hiking in the city of Pittsburgh with their activities for folks of all ages from cookie hikes to soup hikes. Another, more informal, option is Urban Hike, a group of Pittsburghers who get together on a monthly basis during the warm-weather months to explore a new neighborhood of the city.
  6. Biking - Bikes have been around seemingly forever, but it's only recently that bike lanes and bike parking have started popping up all around the city. Thanks to groups like bike-pgh, biking in the city is safer and easier than ever.
The resounding theme throughout this list is community involvement and initiative. Without a strong community group (run by local residents like you and me), most of these options wouldn't exist or would be continuing their slow decline. It's up to us to make Pittsburgh what we want it to be, and I'm pretty pleased with all these new initiatives. Keep up the good work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Small Green Business Tuesday: Contest Edition

Last week, when I was contacted about doing a contest for the two local restaurants, Sonoma Grille and Seviche, I scoffed. What could these downtown restaurants have to do with a "green" blog? Then I looked at their menus and talked to their chefs.


When I asked about local foods, Mark, the chef at Seviche, pulled out his iPhone and brought up the extensive order form for Penn's Corner Farm Alliance. Though he complained that in order to get their great selection, you need to order early in the week. His backup choice is Green Grocer. He says that whenever he can he uses local foods in the restaurant. (As a side note, Mark told me a little known fact, most mushrooms in the United States are actually grown in Pennsylvania. So anyone who eats mushrooms is basically eating locally. Did you know that Penn State has a mushroom research program?) But back to the food, clearly a fish and mojito restaurant like Seviche can't survive only buying local meats and vegetables. However, if you order their salmon, you can rest assured that it is farmed sustainably. I can't assuage your doubts about the limes in the mojitos though. Even if you don't win the gift certificate, I recommend stopping by Seviche in downtown Pittsburgh for happy hour to try their drinks and tapas at a great price.

Sonoma Grille

Drew, the chef at Sonoma Grille, has a passion for local meats. In addition to using sustainably farmed salmon, he has also incorporated local beef and lamb on the menu. When he brought my partner and me a burger, he asked us to savor it. "Can't you just taste the grass? Cows are intended to eat grass." He's especially proud of his kitchen-made corned beef and swears by the grass-fed beef from Ron Gargasz. Drew says that when the restaurant changes their menu every season, he attempts to introduce another local item, but he has to do it slowly in order to insure that they stay in business. Green meats are not cheap. Randy, the wine guy who talks to everybody to insure they're having a good time, told us that 1/4 of their wine list is organic or sustainable and they even have a vegan wine offering. He gave us a few samples of these "green" wines. In particular, I recommend the Parducci "Sustainable Red" as a reasonable, tasty, feel-green wine on their menu. This Pittsburgh restaurant also has a great happy hour and one of the best wine selections in the area.

The Contest

Now, I'm pleased to announce the first ever "Green is Good" online contest. Leave a comment on this blog entry with your favorite local food (or place to eat it). Next Tuesday March 16, I'll use a random number generator to pick the winner of a $50 gift card good for each restaurant. May the luck of the Irish be with you!

*Disclaimer* I received a free, delicious tasting at these restaurants as part of this contest. I get free food. You get free food. We all win.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wanna Free Tree?

If this warmer weather is making you think of spring planting, check out the South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project. After the devastation that February's snow storms wrecked on our Pittsburgh tree stock, I hope to see many new plantings this spring.

If you're really into trees, you should also check out Pittsburgh's tree tender program. This is a class through the Pittsburgh Friends of the Urban Forest where you learn more about the importance of trees and how to care for them.

Some Tree Benefits

  • Cleaner Air - Trees "breathe" in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen making our air better.
  • Storm Water Run-Off - Trees absorb water making it less likely for that water to combine with sewage and flow into our rivers.
  • Natural Air Conditioning - Shade from trees is natural air conditioning.
  • Beauty - Isn't it just nice to look at trees?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Small Green Business Tuesday: Beer Edition

Not only are restaurants (like Mitchell's) jumping on the green bandwagon, so are breweries.

3 Great Local Green Breweries

1. East End Brewing Company
This local brewing company believes in sustainable practices in every area of their business. They only sell beer by the re-usable keg or growler, and their re-use plans extend to their pre-used brewery equipment and building materials and actual building which was formerly a warehouse. They give their spent grain as feed to a local farm and recycle pretty much everything else. Most importantly, they're made right here in Pittsburgh.

2. Appalachian Brewing Company
This Pennsylvania Brewery based in Harrisburg recently became Pennsylvania's first certified organic brewery. Currently, they only have one organic brew - the Trail Blaze Organic Brown. Its Harrisburg brewpub/brewery is located in a great historic building. Additionally, they're proud to report that they recycle 24 tons per year.

3. Great Lakes Brewing Company
This brewery is based out of Cleveland, Ohio. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by to visit their brewpub and take a tour of their green building. In the winter, they have a warehouse-sized refrigerator naturally cooled and taking advantage of Cleveland's less-than-tropical climate. Additionally, they have oodles of natural light in their remodeled building minimizing their electricity usage. According to their website, they've found some incredibly varied uses of their waste products from bread in their restaurant to growing mushrooms to vermicomposting.

Next time you're at the bar (or beer distributor), keep your eye out for Appalachian Brewing Company, East End Brewery, and Great Lakes Brewing. And make sure you don't drive after drinking - it's bad for the environment and your health.