Your Environment Update for December 30, 2015

  • Pittsburgh resident Meda Rago shows off the trash heap left by litterers behind her house on the city's north side. Photo: Lou Blouin

December 30, 2015

Foolproof Ways to Fight Littering

Littering continues to be a big environmental problem in cities. And one Pittsburgher from the city’s North Side neighborhood is taking the problem personally. Meda Rago regularly picks up trash to keep her street clean, and she really isn’t kidding when she says she’s found some pretty weird things chucked into the alley behind her house.

“About two years ago, we came down the alley and saw an entire roast turkey lying in the street,” Rago says.

Normally, the alley doesn’t draw such exotic things. Typically, it’s stuff like old fast-food bags, soda cans and worn out sneakers.

But Rago wanted to know why some people continue to throw their trash on the ground, while others observe the taboo on littering. And most times, it turns out, people litter for really practical reasons.

“We found that the distance to a trash receptacle was the strongest predictor of littering,” says California State University social psychologist Wesley Schultz. “So the farther away you are from a trash can or a recycling container, the more likely you are to litter.

So you put trash or recycling containers in public spaces, and people start doing the right thing again. The other major contributor to littering behavior—litter itself. The more littered an area is, the more likely people are to keep throwing trash on the ground.

Reporting by Lou Blouin

Frick Park’s New Environmental Center Will Be a World-Class Green Building

Frick Park is a favorite green space for Pittsburghers, boasting over 600 acres of woodlands, fields and wetlands right in the middle of the city. But in 2002, a fire destroyed one of the park’s key attractions—its environmental education center.

Now, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and the city have turned that into an opportunity to create a new building that, once complete, will be one of only a handful in the world to fully meet a rigorous certification for green buildings known as the Living Building Challenge.

“When you come to visit the site, you will see these beautiful rows of trees. But underneath, there are actually 18 geothermal wells that are 520 feet into the ground,” says project manager Marijke Hecht. “And they’re able to take advantage of the natural 55-degree underground temperature, which then feeds our radiant floor heat in the building.”

The building will also be “net-zero” water, meaning it will collect as much water as it uses.

“We want people to be inspired and excited by the natural world. So this building actually will shed all of the water of the north side in a rain veil. It will be like a waterfall coming off the front side of the building,” Hecht says.

The new center will also house education programs for school kids and families when it opens to the public at the end of 2016.

Reporting by Kara Holsopple