SCA Helped Pittsburgh Save How Many Millions?


Sustainability Interns Deliver!

Sustainability Goes Mainstream on Main Street

A mob is gathering in suburban Pittsburgh and Sahar Arbab couldn’t be happier.  In fact, she incited it.

For the past several weeks, Sahar – an SCA Green Cities sustainability intern – has been surveying small business owners door-to-door.  Have you switched to LED lighting?  Have you insulated your pipes and ducts?  Do you compost?  The questions call attention to the economic and ecologic benefits of such practices and provide baseline data for project organizers eager to help businesses up their game in the sport of sustainability.

Today, however, Sahar is spurring area residents to come downtown and buy stuff.  It’s what she calls a Cash Mob.  “We’re increasing exposure and rewards,” she notes.  “In Carnegie, for example, eighty percent of participating businesses doubled their sales.  These are walkable Main Streets, where owners live nearby and can interact with locals, and where one step can affect an entire community.”

SCA’s Green Cities initiative started in Pittsburgh in 2008. The current team includes Sahar and nearly 20 other members: a carbon emissions specialist with the Higher Education Climate Consortium, a storm water manager with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, a recycling coordinator with the Penn. Resources Council, among others.  Through research, analysis and education, these students are turning a region forgotten by the industrial age into a 21st century leader in sustainability.

Sustainable Pittsburgh Program Director Matt Mehalik points to the Green Workplace Challenge, much of which SCA interns built, executed and verified.  “In its third year,” he states, “the program has generated eight million dollars in energy savings, and saved two tons of airborne particulates and enough water to fill Heinz Field.

“The interns are very creative in shaping the programs and producing effective outcomes.  Sustainable Pittsburgh just received the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence and we would not have earned it without the Green Cities interns.”

Back at the Cash Mob, Sahar says both retailers and shoppers are responding well.  “People want to support the environment but don’t always know how,” she notes.  “Events like this help us get the conversation started.” 

The talk – and the walk – is taking over Main Street.