University of Pittsburgh
March 26, 2007

Local, National, and International Leaders in Sustainability Tout 'Green' Building and Living at Pitt's 2007 Engineering Sustainability Conference April 15-18

Mascaro Sustainability Initiative-sponsored event includes waste-reduction plan and a monetary donation to Pa. dairy farm for manure-burning power generator to offset conference's carbon emissions
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The 2007 Engineering Sustainability conference sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh's Mascaro Sustainability Initiative (MSI) not only features sustainability concepts, but also puts those principles into action with steps to minimize or offset resources the event will consume.


Carnegie Mellon University's Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research (SEER) is collaborating on the conference, which will be held April 15-18 at the Sheraton Station Square Hotel at 300 W. Station Square Dr., Pittsburgh. The public is invited to register for the conference and members of the media can attend free of charge. This is MSI's second sustainability conference; it launched the biennial meeting in 2005.


Titled "Innovations That Span Boundaries," the 2007 conference pools academic, government, and industry experts on 'green' engineering from around the world for the purpose of showcasing the latest science and techniques behind sustainable building and water use, said Gena Kovalcik, codirector of MSI, which is part of Pitt's School of Engineering. "Sustainability is a global challenge, and the development of solutions requires that people from a variety of fields be involved," she said.


Researchers and engineers from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere will speak on a variety of topics, including sustainable transportation and water systems, zero-operating-cost buildings, and clean-water solutions for developing countries. These sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. April 16 and 17 and 11 a.m. April 18.


"This conference offers a great platform for setting the record straight about the importance of sustainability in everything we do, from reclaiming our underused brown fields to learning to conserve energy and preserve our precious water supplies," said Deborah Lange, SEER's executive director.


Each day of the conference begins with featured speakers at an 8:30 a.m. plenary session.


The opening plenary session April 16 is titled "University Investment in Sustainability: Research, Teaching, and Practice" and includes panel discussion with Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon, and Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow. Each man will speak for approximately 20 minutes before a 30-minute discussion and question-and-answer session.


The April 17 plenary session begins with the Heinz Distinguished Lecture given by Michael Shellenberger, an author and cofounder of the Apollo Alliance, an association of trade unions, businesses, and environmental groups that advocates the creation of clean energy jobs in the United States, American independence from foreign oil, and renewed American clout in global economics. Speaker Paul Westbrook, sustainable development manager for Texas Instruments, compliments Shellenberger with his topic, "Sustainability-The Next Industrial Revolution."


The April 18 session opens with an outline of combining economic performance and sustainability presented by Ray Lane, an economic consultant and member of Carnegie Mellon's Board of Trustees. A general partner at the California-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Lane is also a key figure in establishing Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley campus and cocreator of the Carnegie Mellon-NASA High Dependability Computing Consortium, a research and education program for designing dependable technology.


At 10 a.m., Gregory S. Babe, president and CEO of Bayer MaterialScience LLC, talks about the role of material science in sustainable engineering. Aside from leading Bayer MaterialScience's North American activities, Babe also serves on the board of directors at the United Way of Allegheny County, Duquesne University, and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. The conference ends at 12:30 p.m.


Ironically, with some people jetting in from such distant locales as Australia and the Philippines, the three-day green conference will churn out more than 300 tons of carbon. The MSI and SEER will offset the carbon output with a $2,610.42 contribution to a methane reduction project at Penn England, a 700-cow, family-owned dairy farm in Williamsburg, Pa.


Coordinated through NativeEnergy-a Native American-owned renewable energy company-the Penn England project will improve the farm's manure digester, which powers a 160-kilowatt electric generator by burning cow dung. Besides lessening the need for fossil fuels, the process also curbs methane emissions from the manure. Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.


The offset donation is in lieu of tote bags and other conference swag, Kovalcik said. "We think the people attending this conference would prefer that we invest the money in a project geared toward sustainable energy," she said.


Other green steps include the use of washable dishware and utensils rather than plastic or Styrofoam, drinks served in pitchers rather than cans or bottles, and conference proceedings distributed on CDs rather than on paper. All printed material will be on recycled paper, Kovalcik said.


To register or to see a conference schedule, visit