For well over a decade, Millvale, Etna, and Sharpsburg have been pursuing and implementing ecodistrict strategies, and on March 25-26 during the Triboro Ecodistrict Workshop, they were able to connect with regional and local leaders interested in pursuing ecodistricts in their own communities.
The two day workshop at the Millvale Food + Energy Hub included speakers from the Triboro Ecodistrict and partners that have been key to the success of obtaining Ecodistrict certification; conversations were facilitated around topics such as coalition building, accessing resources, lean canvas development, and ecodistrict mapping.
“It was interesting to learn about the activities, events and initiatives being spearheaded in these communities and how the ecodistricts work aligns directly with their work to create more partnerships, to work together with the municipalities, local nonprofits, and other individuals in the community,” said Andrew Johnson, director of community partnerships and sustainability at The Forbes Funds. “ It was very eye opening to see the good work being done.”
To help advance the Ecodistrict work being done by nonprofits and community members who attended the workshop, $1,000 mini-grant opportunities and technical support were made available through New Sun Rising and District PGH for five projects.
Applicants were asked questions around why climate action, resilience, and equity are important to their communities, and how the project will engage and educate residents around Ecodistrict quality of life areas (equity, food, energy, water, air, and/or mobility).
The communities awarded mini-grants include: Brackenridge, McKees Rocks, Meadville, Monaca, and Shaler.
Abbey Nilson, science teacher at Shaler Area High School, was able to attend the workshop on both days, and said the mini-grant will be used to explore making the school’s educational facilities more sustainable. For the Friday workshop, Nilson brought five students with her that helped brainstorm what they’d like to use the grant for.
“They really enjoyed the experience,” Nilson said. “A couple things they noted specifically was that they were treated like everyone else there and were able to converse about the topics at hand. It got them thinking about trying to take the model of an ecodistrict and applying it to our school.”
Nilson has been working with the Triboro Ecodistrict since she created the sustainability class in 2020 and said it has provided countless opportunities for her and her students to connect with community leaders on projects happening in the boroughs. Having the support of the Triboro Ecodistrict makes a bigger impact in the classroom by providing resources and an outlet for the students’ passion around equity and sustainability.
It’s that kind of grassroots level work that Johnson believes can create positive, transformational change throughout the region and beyond.
“The biggest thing I want to convey is that [the ecodistrict] model can change the world, and the work that is going on in the Pittsburgh region is attempting to change the world,” Johnson said.
On Friday during the workshop, Etna Community Organization received $100,000 in state funding from Rep. Sara Innamorato, which will be put towards work on the new Etna Center for Community.