In 2017 Rolling Pepperoni was named as Sustainable Pittsburgh’s most sustainable Micro-Business. I love bragging about this win, because we beat incredible businesses and received the greatest honor yet for Rolling Pepperoni at the podium among some of Pittsburgh’s most predominate businesses and community leaders. I love bragging about this win because I love bringing it all back to my friend Zaheen Hussain, Millvale’s Sustainability Coordinator. Zaheen is an incredible connector and guides Millvale community members to a greater level of sustainable accountability. Rolling Pepperoni never would have won the Sustainable Pittsburgh award if it wasn’t for Zaheen. He has so many unique and exciting ideas about sustainability for everyone.
1. What is sustainability to you?
Sustainability to me is an approach to life and our use of resources where we can maintain or improve our quality of life while preserving the same opportunity for future generations. That’s my short answer, hah!
When people think about sustainability, their mind often quickly goes to environmental sustainability. While environmental preservation and remediation are core to sustainability principles, it is only one aspect. When discussing sustainability, I reference triple bottom line practices. People, planet, profit. That’s to say that in order to maintain and improve our quality of life and keep balance in our world, we cannot just think about any one of those things, we have to consider at least all three.
My philosophy of sustainability is more about humanism than it is about traditional environmentalism. Humans are natural creatures of the earth as much as any other living thing we know to exist. The way I see it, what is good for people should inherently be good for the Earth, and what’s good for the Earth should be good for people.
In the 4.5 billion year history of the Earth, humans have existed for roughly 300,000 years. In the over 4 billion years before us, the Earth has experienced shocks unlike what humanity has ever experienced. Earth is a resilient planet. I share that to say that the Earth has been through far worse than what humanity is doing to it today, and has come out of it just fine. The question is, will humans change environmental conditions so much so that we will work our way out of our only home planet? I hope not, and that is what we work to prevent in our field.
2. According to Sustainable by Design, sustainability is the socio-ecological pursuit of a common ideal. An ideal is by definition unattainable in a given time and space. However, by persistently and dynamically approaching it, the process results in a sustainable system. As Sustainability Coordinator, do you have unattainable goals and how often are you reevaluating?
In the pursuit of knowledge and through the building of experience, we are constantly learning more about sustainability strategies that work and ones that do not. Additionally, as we live in the age of information, we have the ability to look upward and outward, backward and forward, farther than we have ever been able to before through historical analysis and modeling technology. We are also able to communicate across the world faster than we have ever been able to in the history of humanity. That means not only are we able to learn more and learn faster than ever, it also means we have the privilege of having clear lines of communication with like-minded communities who are also constantly learning best practices that we can then adjust to our community and adopt.
The Millvale Ecodistrict Pivot Plan has set a bold long term vision for Millvale’s sustainable economic development goals. The Ecodistrict Plan however is less about the goals and more about the incremental strategies that can help the community achieve those goals, step by step. With extensive research done ahead of time, all of the strategies selected as a community and an organization are grounded in reality, as we work towards the ideals put forward by Millvalians.
In order to remain relevant in the everchanging times, we have baked into our process a 2-3 year evaluation cycle so that we as a community are constantly revisiting our goals, what we have accomplished, and what we hope to accomplish next, both short term and long term. If at that time we see that there are even clearer strategies that can help us navigate towards the bold vision, we recalibrate. The practice of evaluating our progress and strategies in these cycles helps keep our plan up to date with modern thinking.