The 10th and final episode of Sustainability Pioneers follows how one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, the Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, rises from the ashes, and how the City of Pittsburgh takes a different road after president Trump reneges on the Paris climate treaty. We meet Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, and Renee Lertzman, PhD, climate, energy and climate change engagement strategist, for their insights on how to help people move from “climate melancholia” to climate action.
Millions of people in the most vulnerable regions around the world are already being forced to leave their homes because of climate change. “If we began to contribute to reducing the climate change, we are helping people stay in the communities they value the most”, says Vivian Loftness, professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon University and the green building expert interviewed in Sustainability Pioneers 9: Home Sweet Home.
Almost 40 percent of all the US carbon emissions come from buildings, both residential and commercial. In many European countries energy efficient, climate friendly homes are common. These low-carbon homes are popping up around the US too. In the ninth episode of Sustainability Pioneers, Home Sweet Home, we follow a couple who is building a “passive house” – a tightly insulated low energy home – in the Pittsburgh area. We also visit a 100-percent electric straw bale house in Armstrong county, PA, and explore how performing an energy audit in an old home can reduce energy bills and climate pollution.
Energy transition does not happen overnight – it is a step by step process. Steve Pomerance from Boulder, Colorado built a solar home after learning about climate change in the 1970’s. Since then he, with a group of other concerned citizens and the city of Boulder, have been paving the way for the city to go fossil free by 2030. Along the way, they are pressuring the state and the utility to go green with them.
Jonathan Koehn, Regional Sustainability Coordinator of the City of Boulder, explains why Boulder is attempting to municipalize its utility, and Karl Rábago, Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center, paints a bigger picture of how the utility industry is -or is not- responding to climate change.
Very few states in the U.S. have started to transform their economy in a way that would keep climate change at bay, and in a way that matches the Paris climate agreement. In the seventh episode of the series, Sustainability Pioneers visits New York, one of the states taking bold climate action. The goal of New York state’s new energy policy, Reforming the Energy Vision, is to get half of the state’s energy from clean sources by 2030. Sustainability Pioneers also visits Eco Village At Ithaca and Hunt Country Vineyards in the Finger Lakes to see how the energy transition is unfolding at the grassroots level.
Small scale solar, rooftop solar and solar gardens, have been a small player in the U.S. energy markets until now but things are changing. Rooftop solar is coming to town.
Sustainability Pioneers documents how the Solarize Allegheny project attempts to bring 200 new solar installations to the county, and how one family takes a major step towards energy independence.
One of Germany’s “green pockets”, Climate Community Saerbeck, shows a model to the world of how to become energy independent in a sustainable way. A town of about 7,000 people started its climate protection and adaptation work in 2009, and in just five years the town was producing more renewable energy than it consumes. Sustainability Pioneers also interviews Ralf Fuecks, the president of Heinrich Böll Foundation, and climate scientist Neil Donahue from Carnegie Mellon University. Neil Donahue explains how we need to reduce our carbon footprint, and Ralf Fuechs offers his view if this is feasible in the U.S.
The “Doomsday Clock” now stands at three minutes till midnight due to the rapid progression of the climate crisis. Unchecked climate change is now as serious a risk to humanity as the nuclear weapons for which the Doomsday Clock was created. World leaders have failed to do what is necessary to stop the course of climate change. Yet, there are leaders who are modeling ways to turn back the clock. Sustainability Pioneers visits one of them, Borough Manager Mario Leone, Jr, from Monaca, Pennsylvania. Monaca has reduced utility costs by 25 percent, thanks to energy saving strategies initiated by Mr. Leone.
Sustainability Pioneers “It Takes a Village” is a story about community power. Documentary filmmaker Kirsi Jansa visits two communities, Butler in Pennsylvania and Balcombe in the UK. In Balcombe oil and gas industry wants to drill and frack, and in Butler the shale gas development is in full swing. In both places some local have visions for a different kind of a future. Josh Roberts, an environmental lawyer from Client Earth talks about community power. Community power is a new energy system based on renewable energy that benefits the largest number of people.
Part 2 of Sustainability Pioneers visits two companies and a private citizen who have already started building a bridge to a renewable energy future. Selling the problem leads to paralysis. Selling the solution leads to inspiration, excitement, hope, says sustainability professor Stanley Kabala from Duquesne University.
The way we use and produce energy impacts both our climate and our health – about one third to half of the air pollution in SW Pennsylvania comes from energy production. Sustainability Pioneers visits a family with breathing problems and talks with Fernando Holguin, Assistant Director of UPMC Asthma Institute, about asthma, air quality and climate change.
Neil Donahue, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, compares how different energy sources impact air quality and climate change, and Inez Azevedo, Co-director of CMU Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making, talks about the economics of our energy decisions