The GREENING of the BLUES at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival by Maureen Elizabeth

Posted on 9/23/2010 by Maureen Elizabeth

The Blues aren’t always blue! This year, the annual Pittsburgh Blues Festival, in cooperation with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Band and the SCA (Student Conservation Association), went GREEN. During an incredibly amazing 3 day concert fest that brought between 8 and 10,000 music lovers, the Pittsburgh Blues Festival gathered over 18,000 pounds of food – over 9 tons! Traditionally, at the end of the day, the festival loads up 3 to 4 garbage trucks full of waste. But because of the recycling and composting efforts of the SCA, this amount of waste was reduced to 1 truckload per night– an environmentally significant difference. I spoke with Lori Gaido, the program manager of the Sustainability Corps and asked her how this idea evolved...

Tell us about the Sustainability Corp…

The sustainability core is one of many programs the SCA runs. The SCA has been around over 50 years, it is a national organization and Pittsburgh is one of the regional offices. In Pittsburgh we have the urban program which coordinated the effort with the Food Band for the Blues Festival and we have the rural program that focuses more on economic and community development. Our rural program has been around 2 years and our Green Cities program, 3 years. The Green Cities program ( focuses on climate mitigation and helping nonprofit and government agencies implement sustainable initiatives in this region. We mainly work with young people, high school age through college graduates are our focus, and we provide them with hands –on conservation service opportunities. Our mission is to develop the next conservation leaders and stewards of our land.

How did you connect with the Blues Festival?

We had a sustainable agriculture intern who was familiar with the food bank’s farmers market. I had inquired on how we could get involved with the recycling and composting at the Festival. We first approached Iris Valanti, Director of Communications of the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and she was extremely open to the idea. The Food Bank itself has a long history of sustainable initiatives and in ’09 they first attempted recycling at the festival. This year, when we approached them, they didn’t have the manpower but were excited about the idea and were really committed to it. We wanted to get word out about our program, internships for college, and summer job opportunities for high school students. Our presence at the festival allowed us to let everyone know about the initiative, about climate change, sustainability and the actions that local consumers can take like the development of rain gardens, planting trees along their streets, and composting. Nineteen green agencies and six local food producers were stationed under the Green Tent during the weekend to promote sustainable environmental initiatives.
There were hands-on cooking demonstrations and Creative Reuse arts activities.

There are a lot of different, wonderful organizations that are doing a lot of great work that directly or indirectly affects the climate. These are great resources for people to utilize.

Of course, more people recognized the composting and recycling effort and we educated about some of the really simple practices that can make less waste go into our landfills. Every year at the end of each night 3- 4 garbage truck loads of garbage are hauled from the festival. This year, due to the efforts of the SCA, the amount of waste was reduced to 1 garbage truck load per night on Friday and Saturday - quite a bit if the material got reused and composted. We also made efforts to educate the vendors so that they would know the difference between biodegradable and compostable materials.

Can you explain the difference for our readers (myself included)?

It’s basically a time issue. Biodegradable materials have no real time limit. Compostable and certified compostable materials, in the right conditions, will break down within 100 days and these materials can be bought locally.

Hopes for next years’ festival?

Oh yes. Now that we can reflect upon what we did and what we still could do, we are looking forward to partnering with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
and the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, expanding our role with the vendors and continuing to educate the public about sustainable living.

According to Iris Valanti, "the Blues Festival, the Food Bank and the SCA are linked by a common desire to enhance the quality of life for all people in southwestern Pennsylvania through positive, proactive means. The SCA introduced the Blues Festival to a new audience, and thereby helped spread the word about the problem of hunger in our communities." And finally she gives "many thanks to SCA for all the hard work they did recruiting volunteers, taking the lead on recycling, and adding cultural value to the Blues Festival experience."

From their website:
SCA conservation service programs:

Conservation Crews: for high school students age 15-19. These month-long, back country or front country projects involve six-to-eight students under the supervision of trained, experienced crew leaders. SCA Crews provide a transformational experience, as members not only serve the land but also constantly challenge themselves both individually and as a team.
Conservation Interns: for college and graduate students, as well as other young adults. Serving alongside resource management professionals, SCA Conservation Interns make substantial contributions to our natural and cultural treasures while gaining valuable new skills and career experience. Positions are available in all conservation disciplines and range in length from 12 weeks to 12 months.

Conservation Corps: long-term, primarily residential programs for college-age and older interns including the SCA Fire Education Corps, a national outreach project helping homeowners along the wildland-urban interface reduce their risk of wildfire; the SCA Desert Restoration Corps, restoring lands scarred by illegal off-road vehicle use; and numerous SCA AmeriCorps teams providing environmental education in rural schools and conducting conservation service projects in state parks.

Community Conservation Programs: offer opportunities for students that are traditionally underrepresented in the conservation field. Community conservation programs are currently conducted in Baltimore, California’s Bay Area, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Stamford, and Washington, DC. These programs provide high-school age youth with year-round training and service opportunities through SCA’s regional offices.

For more information, please visit our website at or call 603-543-1700

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

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