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Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Talks Energy Efficiency

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This is a guest blog by Zachary Hirschfeld, Communications Technology Coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. The Food Bank collects and distributes food through a 380+ member network in 11 counties in southwestern Pennsylvania. Daily operations occur at their award-winning LEED certified ‘green’ warehouse. In addition, Zachary is part of the organization’s very successful Sustainability Committee.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank has a storied history of sustainability – interacting with the environment and its people respectfully and responsibly. In 2000, we built our 94,000 square-foot facility on a former brownfield in Duquesne, PA as the Pittsburgh region’s first LEED-certified building and America’s first LEED-certified food bank.

Over the past decade, we have continued to strive towards reducing our organization’s footprint through Zero Waste Pittsburgh event certifications, recycling programs and vehicle route efficiency planning.

Over the last year, the Food Bank has engaged in a number of sustainability-related projects. In early 2013, our Operations team installed energy-efficient LED lighting throughout our warehouse. Overall, our LED lighting is anticipated to save us $17,000 per year. Since their installation, our year-to-date kilowatt/hour usage has decreased by 9% from last year. We hope to see this continue to decrease.

With respect to solid waste, we are conducting an internal compostable waste audit, from which we will graduate to composting all organic waste generated. We will be contracting with AgRecycle, a locally owned composter in southwestern Pennsylvania, who will pick up our dumpsters full of organic waste twice a week. Just a few weeks ago, we installed seven energy-efficient Xcelerator hand dryers, thanks to a generous Reduce Your Use For Good grant from Direct Energy. We decided on the hand dryers because our Sustainability Committee sees reducing solid waste, such as paper towels, as an important issue. As we assess the success of our hand dryer initiative, we hope to eliminate paper waste at our facility completely.

During the past year, we held multiple "Car-Free Fridays", which encouraged staff members and volunteers to take alternative means of transportation. Participants rode the bus, carpooled, biked on the Great Allegheny Passage and walked.

We believe our dedication to sustainable initiatives sets an example for Pittsburgh nonprofits, in general, and food banks across the country, and we are excited to build on our progress as we fight hunger in southwestern Pennsylvania.

You might be asking what is a Sustainability Committee, and how do I start one? Those questions will be addressed soon in another post from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Posted: November 12, 2013