Sustainable Travel In and Around Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is home to a surplus of delicious restaurants, entertainment, and sightseeing locations, and you can find resources for planning your stay at VisitPittsburgh. However, if you want to be conscious of the ecological footprint that you will leave while traveling, check out the suggestions below.
Environmentally conscious vegan or vegetarian? Or simply looking to eat cleaner? Pittsburgh hosts an ample selection for green eaters and herbivores alike. An excellent source to begin your search is the Sustainable Pittsburgh restaurant finder, which ranks local restaurants on their quality of sustainable practices. An additional source to explore is VeganPittsburgh. This site catalogs vegan restaurants by neighborhood and offers a brief description for each. A few of our favorites include:
- Kiin Lao and Thai Eatery in Squirrel Hill offers deliciously authentic East Asian cuisine and a comfortable atmosphere. All food is made in house with a wide selection of vegan and vegetarian options from curries to pho. Try the curry puffs and ask for a seat by the front window to overlook Squirrel Hill’s main street while you enjoy your meal!
- All India Authentic Cuisine, a South Asian restaurant located in the Oakland neighborhood, offers quality food for very affordable prices. Like many Indian eateries, All India offers a multitude of plant-based options with an entire section of their menu dedicated to vegetarian and vegan entrees.
- Salem’s Market and Grill in the Strip District is both a restaurant and grocer of Halal and Middle Eastern food. Patrons can shop for international ingredients that would be otherwise difficult to find in other grocery stores, while enjoying quality hot food that is ready to serve. Salem’s is a staple in the neighborhood and has formed a strong local community. When visiting, trying the homemade hummus is a must.
Outdoor Activities and Green Spaces
Pittsburgh is known for its lush green spaces that are seldom found in other major Northeast cities. The city was carved into the mountains by ancient streams and rivers, shaping a unique landscape that is characterized by steep hills and deep valleys. Plan a visit to one of the region’s many parks by accessing the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy and Alleghany County Parks databases.
Frick Park, Pittsburgh’s largest and most historic park, comprises 644 acres of public green space in Point Breeze. Home to beautiful, wooded trails and plenty of outdoor activities like clay tennis courts and lawn bowling greens, Frick Park is a must for those who love the outdoors.
Another notable Pittsburgh park is Schenley Park and Plaza. Schenley Plaza sits in the heart of Oakland between two major universities (University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon) and acts as a landmark green space nestled into the bustling neighborhood. The space is perfect for group meet-ups and outdoor events and houses countless food vendors and restaurants to feed its patrons. Children can take a ride on the PNC carousel while parents enjoy one of the many outdoor concerts Schenley hosts throughout the warmer seasons. In addition to the plaza, Schenley park contains 450+ acres of trails and woods that visitors can enjoy either for a casual afternoon stroll or for the more intensive hiking paths.
For additional outdoor activities, VentureOutdoors provides interested participants with lists of events occurring across the city on a monthly basis that can be filtered by cost, location, and even activity type. These include summer camps or camp-like events, family fishing trips, and neighborhood mural arts tours.
KayakPittsburgh allows guests to rent kayaks or canoes and explore Pittsburgh’s beautiful three rivers.
Pittsburgh offers a variety of transportation options to help you limit your environmental impact during your stay.
A bike-friendly city, Pittsburgh offers many trails and parks to enjoy, along with bike lanes that parallel major roads to better safeguard riders from car traffic. Bikepgh is an amazing resource providing riders with easy-to-follow biking routes, tips for cyclists, and locations to repair your bike. If you’d like to rent a bike during your stay, POGOH stations are located across the city and offer rental bicycles that can be paid for by the half hour or with monthly or yearly passes, all at affordable prices.
If cycling is not your forte, Pittsburgh’s bus system, Pittsburgh Regional Transit, covers the city and parts of nearby suburbs. The T light rail runs from North to South and through Downtown Pittsburgh.
In addition to the bus system, travelers can take the Duquesne Incline or Monongahela Incline. Originally created as commuter transportation to scale the tall hills of Pittsburgh, the inclines are historic landmarks to the city, with operations dating as far back as the 1870s. The gondola-like rides offer wonderful views of Downtown Pittsburgh that are truly unmatched.
To stay in Pittsburgh eco-consciously, here are a few LEED-certified hotels that you can rest in during your visit. LEED is an internationally recognized green building system that verifies a building was designed and built to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy and water efficiency, conserve habitats and natural resources, and save money too.
- Hyatt House South Side rates high in energy efficiency and is in close proximity to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail.
- The Fairmont Pittsburgh, located right in the Downtown area, is another LEED-certified hotel with additional amenities that will help you relax through your travels.
Pittsburgh Culture, Done Sustainably
Like most other cities across the country, Pittsburgh takes great pride in its sports teams: The Pittsburgh Pirates (baseball), Pittsburgh Penguins (hockey), and Pittsburgh Steelers (football). All of these major sports teams take part in and are committed to the Pittsburgh 2030 District’s goals for reducing water and energy usages.
- PPG Paints Arena, home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, is also a LEED-certified building, and was the first hockey rink to achieve this designation.
- PNC Park, which houses the Pirates, employs sustainability programs through its partnership with Duquesne Light and an intensive waste reduction program. Programs include the “Power Hitters Program”, which pledges that for every home run the team hits, a tree will be planted in underserved neighborhoods across the city to combat heat island impacts. PNC Park also maintains an urban garden in which they grow food on-site for concession sales.
There are other immersive activities outside of sports to get you engaged in the “Yinzer” culture sustainably:
Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, located in Oakland near the universities, is a 15-acre space comprising a 14-room glasshouse and 23 distinct gardens and featuring industry-leading sustainable architecture, seasonal flower shoes and green practices, The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at Phipps generates all of its own energy and treats all storm and sanitary water captured on-site. It is the first and only building to meet six of the highest green certifications: the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, WELL Building Platinum, SITES Platinum, Fitwel 3 Star and BREEAM Outstanding In-Use.
The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated to birds. Located on Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood, this is a great place to learn about birds from all over the world. Dedicated to a number of conservation projects, the Aviary also engages in on-site practices to reduce negative impacts on animals and the planet, including bird-friendly building design, stormwater management, and a recent LEED-Gold addition called the Garden Room which allows visitors and guests to enjoy an open-air event experience while overlooking the Aviary’s Rose Garden and Lake Elizabeth.
Also located on the city’s North Side, The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was an early adopter of the LEED green building rating system and its newest experiential space for middle-school aged children – MuseumLab – offers a look at an incredibly unique example of sustainable historic building reuse.
The Carnegie Museums located across the city are both engaging and sustainable, overall gaining a Silver designation for LEED certification. National Geographic recently featured the Carnegie Museums for their extensive health and safety measures implemented over the course of the pandemic, reducing another reservation some may have about indoor activities. The Museum of Natural History, as an example, contains a world class dinosaur exhibit showcasing scientifically accurate reconstructions of dinosaur species and their environments.
Green Building Walking Tour
For a closer look at the buildings that contribute to Pittsburgh’s leading role in the sustainability movement, check out Green Building Alliance’s green building walking tour. This self-guided tour around downtown Pittsburgh showcases the sustainable attributes of some of the city’s most iconic buildings, including:
- David L. Lawrence Convention Center
- US Steel Tower
- PPG Paints Arena
- PNC Park…and more!
Choose between a longer and a shorter route depending on your preference, and take some time to relax in some of Downtown’s picturesque green spaces, as optional rest stops are built in throughout your journey. With a selection of corporate, administrative, and cultural buildings to see, this walk has something engaging for everyone!