Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Brian Cohen

Pittsburgh is about to become greener—ecologically and literally—thanks to its involvement in the Biophilic Cities Project.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced last Friday Pittsburgh’s designation as a Biophilic City, making it part of a worldwide network of cities working on improving and nurturing their natural elements. The project fosters collaboration between researchers, city planners and policymakers to find ways to conserve and expand the biodiversity of urban areas.

As part of the designation, Pittsburgh commits to eliminating the use of all pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, developing more greenways and increasing the city’s tree canopy from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030. It will also look at opportunities for daylighting, which redirects buried streams of water into above-ground channels. The process is thought to help with stormwater management efforts and prevent flooding.

Taken from the term “biophilia,” which literally means “love of life,” the Biophilic Cities Project was started by author and professor Tim Beatley and his team at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture.

“Biophilic Cities are cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world,” Beatley said in a press statement.

Pittsburgh joins a network of domestic Biophilic Cities that includes Milwaukee, Phoenix, San Francisco, Portland, and Washington, DC. The project also extends internationally to Wellington, New Zealand, Birmingham, UK, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain and Singapore.

The official announcement was made at Phipps Conservatory, whose monthly Biophilia: Pittsburgh Meetup group initiated the Biophilic City designation. As described on its Meetup page, the pilot chapter is part of a global Biophilia Network of creative minds working to strengthen the bond between people and the natural world through education, discussion and action.

Going forward, Phipps Conservatory will help the City meet its Biophilic City commitments by providing resources and support. Biophilic Cities will also monitor Pittsburgh’s progress.

“Museums and organizations like Phipps Conservatory are in a perfect position to demonstrate to the public the important interconnection between human and environmental health,” said Phipps Conservatory executive director Richard Piacentini. “Our visitors experience our beautiful gardens and recognize and appreciate their natural connection with the environment.”

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 to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.