Allegheny County has been taking small steps to cut its carbon footprint. Now they are starting to add up.

The 2022 Allegheny County Sustainability Report, which was released this week, details the cumulative impact of measures taken since the county’s first sustainability manager was hired in 2009.

Most significantly, Allegheny County has met federal air quality standards for particulates — a long-held and difficult goal — for the second year in a row. The particulate standards refer to the concentration of substances such as dust, dirt, soot or smoke that are in the air. Having hit that milestone, the county Health Department plans to seek “attainment designation” from the EPA.

In the past year, the county has also added four electric cars, two efficient dual-fuel (gas/propane) garbage trucks and four Tier IV dump trucks (which emit 86% less pollution).

A dual-fuel garbage truck. Photo courtesy of Allegheny County.

“Over the last decade, we have invested in hydropower and alternative fuel and electric vehicles, improved our stormwater management and practiced sustainable development,” Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald notes in the report. “Our contract with RoadRunner Recycling has resulted in a significant reduction of what’s sent to the landfill. We have reduced the amount of paper that we recycle because we’ve gone paperless for applications for jobs and grants. And we continue to recycle plastic bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard and scrap.”

The county also has planted nearly 1,400 trees and added 10 acres of no-mow meadows, as well as a green parking lot in South Park, which will divert 2.5 million gallons of stormwater a year from Catfish Run. It added a rain garden in Boyce Park that will capture an estimated 216,000 gallons of stormwater a year.

Recycling numbers from the 2022 Allegheny County Sustainability Report.

By the numbers, the county has made significant changes to its waste stream since 2009:

• Recycled 174 tons of cardboard
• Composted 0.8 tons of food waste
• Recycled 86.6 tons of plastic bottles, aluminum cans and mixed paper
• Implemented a green cleaning program for janitorial services
• Recycled 78.62 tons of scrap metal

The county has purchased 7.4 megawatts of renewable energy credits from a hydropower facility to be built on the Ohio River. Brittany Prischak, sustainability manager for the county, says she is impressed with the progress and the formation of strong, trusting relationships within the county departments and facilities management.

“These relationships, along with our county Green Team, have allowed us to expand our efforts as we integrate environmental best practices into county government,” says Prischak. “We are excited to see what more we can accomplish.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.