Pittsburgh communities are taking environmental health and restoration into their own hands through grassroots projects supported by The Sprout Fund.
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Written by Weenta Girmay
Pittsburgh’s community innovators have been hard at work for years making the city a healthier, greener place to call home. In 2014, several new initiatives were launched with the help of catalytic grants from The Sprout Fund, including efforts to remediate vacant land, rehabilitate pollinator populations, and engage youth in riverfront cleanup and restoration.
GTECH Strategies saw a “waste opportunity” in the invasive knotweed plant, so they created Knots on Lots with the help of a Seed Award from The Sprout Fund. Knots on Lots breaks down the pesky plant to make paper and “biochar,” a natural soil additive.
GTECH partnered with Larimer resident Albert Pantone to host papermaking workshops at the Society for Contemporary Craft where people could try their hand at turning Knotweed pulp into beautiful decorative paper.
Also bearing fruit in 2014 is the Garfield Hops Project, GTECH’s collaboration with Garfield Community Farms and Pittsburgh’s East End Brewing Company that uses locally grown hops to make locally sourced beer.
I think whenever you can show people something really fun and get them in the river doing things that they love, that’s the only way you can foster real stewardship that’ll last longer than just picking up a piece of garbage.
–Ian Smith of First Waves
In the face of a declining bee population, Jeff Shaw of The Homewood Educational Apiary provides mentorship to novice beekeepers and offers tours and beekeeping classes to the public. Like the Apiary, other green projects have taken an educational approach to their outreach. The Pittsburgh Canning Exchange holds monthly canning workshops using local and organic foods. Their goal is to pass on the canning tradition and make the practice approachable to first time canners. The youth paddleboarding project called First Waves also works with first timers; they take teens downriver on paddleboards and kayaks to collect trash, giving them the tools they need to document the experience through video.
Each of these grassroots efforts got their start with early support from The Sprout Fund. Since its founding in 2001, Sprout has supported more than 550 small-scale, community-based projects that create new opportunities for Pittsburghers to take an active role in improving the quality of life in their communities.