PITTSBURGH-Cited as a reason for Pittsburgh's selection as host of the G20 conference in September, the local green sector excels in research and implementation, but there is still opportunity for further green growth in the area of businesses and manufacturing jobs, says a University of Pittsburgh expert on sustainable engineering and the local green economy.
Eric Beckman, codirector of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, which specializes in sustainable-design research and development, is available to comment on the development and infrastructure that have earned Pittsburgh recognition and how the region could complement those areas through business and production. Pittsburgh has established environmental research programs in its major universities, and there is a public commitment to bikes, pollution control, and green buildings.
But, Beckman says, more paying jobs in the green sector should be created to sustain Pittsburgh's progress in sustainability. In particular, Pittsburgh could take the lead in genuinely green products and services that present a verifiably more sustainable solution than current goods, said Beckman, who studies and documents "greenwashing," or labeling as "green" products and industries that are not distinctly sustainable.
"Pittsburgh is a national sustainability leader in many respects, and now the next logical step is to have an organized effort to incubate local green businesses and industries," Beckman said. "There's a disconnect in Pittsburgh. We have significant research and technology development at Pitt, Carnegie Mellon, and Duquesne University that matches the work of nonprofit organizations such as the Rachel Carson Homestead, the Green Building Alliance, and Sustainable Pittsburgh. Now we need to connect the three dots of research, business, and implementation to bring the ideas this city generates to fruition."
As the George M. and Eva M. Bevier professor of chemical and petroleum engineering in Pitt's Swanson School, Beckman focuses on developing environmentally safe chemical products. He also is Chief Science Officer for Cohera Medical Inc., a company he founded in 2004 to commercialize a biocompatible surgical "glue" that can be used internally. In 2002, Beckman received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Chemistry Challenge Award for his exploration of using carbon dioxide as an environmentally benign solvent, a medium for creating microcellular materials, and as a catalyst. Beckman was the fifth Pittsburgh-based recipient of the EPA award in four years.
The Mascaro Center, located in Pitt's Swanson School of Engineering, is the University's center for sustainable-design research and development. The center also supports community projects and education, from helping to design and construct bamboo buildings in the Indian Himalayas to funding an advanced environmental science class at Mt. Lebanon High School. More information on the Mascaro Center is available on its Web site at www.mascarocenter.pitt.edu.