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Bloomberg grant will help Pittsburgh cut energy costs, increase access to fresh produce

| Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 11:46 a.m.

Pittsburgh plans to reduce energy costs and provide community vegetable gardens with a $100,000 grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the mayor's office announced on Wednesday.

Sharlee Ellison, 57, of Knoxville said a garden would be a welcome addition to her neighborhood. She said residents without transportation must catch a bus to Mt. Washington or Brentwood for groceries.

“That's a big problem over here with people living on fixed incomes just not being able to get around,” Ellison said.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office will roughly split the grant between his “Cool Roof” and “Edible Gardens” programs, both set to begin next year, said spokeswoman Joanna Doven.

The city will recruit volunteers to coat the roofs of 10 city-owned buildings with white reflective paint, which it hopes will reduce inside temperatures by up to 30 percent and cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 50 tons, Doven said. Volunteers will receive safety training and assistance from Department of Public Works personnel.

Painting will be done over the course of eight months. Doven said the city has not yet decided which buildings to paint, but they will include police stations, recreation centers and senior centers.

“It will not only make us greener, but it will also help us to reduce our energy costs, which will save taxpayer dollars,” Doven said.

The mayor believes he can save $700,000 annually by cutting energy consumption in city-owned buildings, she said.

Public Works employees will work with volunteers to design, establish and maintain the vegetable gardens in city-owned lots. Doven said the harvest will be distributed free to residents.

Ellison said the project not only would supply fresh food but would help establish pride in her neighborhood.

“If we take time and do the planting, we're going to make sure it's watered, and we're going to make sure it's taken care of.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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