Summertime = Blitz Time

by Nicole Catino

The air is hot and humid, the days are long, when it’s not raining the sun is shining (imagine that), which can only mean one thing… that it’s finally summer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! And in my SCA Green Cities position working on the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign, summatime means it’s blitz time.

What is a blitz, you ask? Well my friend, a blitz is a one-day event we organize where volunteers distribute free energy-saving toolkits door-to-door to residents in one of Pittsburgh’s many great neighborhoods. These “toolkits” are reusable grocery bags filled with items such as CFL light bulbs, LED night lights, a smart power strip, tips on how to reduce energy use and save money at home, as well as a few other things.

Since the neighborhood blitz was adopted as a proactive outreach model in 2010, the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign has organized 23 blitzes throughout 16 different neighborhoods in Pittsburgh that have reached a total of 2002 households. We partner with local community development centers or other leaders in the neighborhood in order to create a successful event. The first blitz for 2014 (and the first one I am organizing during my SCA term!) is happening in just a few short weeks. As you might imagine with any event planning, these are busy but exciting times.

What’s the point of these blitzes, you wonder? The big picture answer is to reduce Pittsburgh’s greenhouse gases—a major contributor to climate change— and improve the region’s air quality. According to an analysis by the Clean Air Task Force using 2010-2012 data, out of 338 urban areas surveyed Pittsburgh’s air quality is in the dirtiest 10 percent for average annual particle pollution. This is a major cause of concern because poor air quality poses serious risks for public health, including heart and lung disease, cancer, asthma and birth defects to name a few. (For more information related to the region’s air quality and what is being done about it, check out www.breatheproject.org)

Our goal with the Black and Gold City Goes Green campaign (www.theblackandgoldcitygoesgreen.com) is to engage the residents of Pittsburgh in simple actions they can take at home in order to reduce their energy demand and therefore their carbon footprint since most electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants. Our main focus is on promoting energy efficient products and behaviors, as well as educating individuals about using renewable energy to power their homes. This project is supported by PennFuture (www.pennfuture.org) and was created in 2009 as the community aspect of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (www.pittsburghclimate.org). The PCI raises awareness and engages Pittsburgh’s residents, businesses, government and institutions of higher learning in taking concrete actions that reduce heat-trapping gas and air pollution and its impact on our local economy and human health.