The Phipps Welcome Center. Photo by Denmarsh Photography, Inc.

A visit to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens could mean more than a walk through the flowersit could mean a more sustainable future for Pittsburgh.

The Oakland-based public garden now offers incentives for switching to Green Mountain Energy, one of the largest clean power retailers in the country. Pennsylvania and New York residents who visit Phipps can work with an on-site Green Mountain representative to swap their current electricity provider for power generated by sources such as local wind farms and solar. Every guest who switches during their visit gets a free one-year family membership to Phipps while existing members receive a six-month extension of their membership.

Green Mountain expanded its services to the Pittsburgh area in 2013 and boasts rates comparable with what Duquesne Light charges for electricity. Since it launched in 1997, the company claims to have saved its customers from emitting 45.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Phipps Executive Director Richard V. Piacentini says they created the program to make it easier for people to take action against climate change.

“For too long we’ve been waiting for government leaders to solve this problem for us and it can’t wait any longer,” he says. “We need to start taking responsibility ourselves to address this global problem.”

Phipps estimates that each year, the average Pennsylvania home produces the amount of CO2 equal to 17,176 miles of driving in a car. In comparison, a household switching to green power helps remove as much CO2 from the atmosphere as seven acres of forest.

Currently, Pennsylvania is one of 24 states where consumers can choose renewable energy to power their homes. Piacentini believes that many residents would make the change if they became aware of how much one choice can impact the environment.

“What we’re trying to show people is that collectively we can make a huge difference,” says Piacentini. “What they do does matter.”

Piacentini adds that, so far, more than 350 Phipps visitors have made the switch to Green Mountain plans.

Want to learn more? You can find Green Mountain at the Phipps Conservatory during most afternoons. Call ahead to make sure.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...