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Learning for a Greener Future: Week 4
Jul 13

Learning for a Greener Future: Week 4

By Jacob Herrup, Intern Leader

The Learning for a Greener Future internship is a six-week program offered by Phipps to Pittsburgh-area high school students. Jacob Herrup completed the internship last summer and has returned this year as the Intern Leader. In this blog he will document the interns’ weekly experiences and add in a few interesting facts along the way!

Passing through our fourth week of the internship, we had a decisive focus on sustainability. This week felt the most natural of the weeks so far, in the sense that we had to do very little to go out of our way to immerse ourselves in the topic. Phipps Conservatory being the way it is we’re surrounded by sustainable systems, and have had an abundance of time to discover through our own curiosity the various ways we can incorporate sustainable practices in our everyday lives. Who helped us with this significantly, however, was Ron Rademacher, a Phipps Docent volunteer for the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL). He taught us through our discussion with him that Phipps campus is entirely self-sustainable, meaning if all the interns were stuck here on campus with no contact with the outside world, we’d survive relatively well. A camp of high school students staying at Chatham University also came to tour the CSL space as part of the Sustainability Leadership Academy. We got to interact with them and discuss plans for potential sustainability projects for our communities!

This week we also had the privilege to be toured around the Frick Environmental Center by Camila Rivera Tinsley, the Director of Education in the space. They have two certifications in common with the CSL, the Living Building and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification. This made for interesting comparisons between approaches for the same healthy, net-zero water and net-zero energy space. We also spent time in the park itself, exploring down the path with Camila looking for edible and medicinal plants. In this time we crossed paths with the Young Naturalist interns who are based at the site. They showed us their findings in the nearby stream, and we even got to handle some crayfish! Part of the tour also included a space called the Slavery to Freedom garden, which is a very accessible space designed in part to empower people with the knowledge of gardening and means to survive off the land. A practice that has always been important and while many today forget it, always will be.

Back on Phipps campus we had another lesson with entomologist Ryan Gott, while he taught us details on pest management. He helped us identify sick plants and what their aliments were. He then taught us about Phipps’ sustainable practices on keeping pests in check with predators and biological conditioning, as opposed to excessive use of toxic pesticides. We also had a meeting with Kirsi Jansa, a professional videographer, as an expansion on our photography lessons. Albeit it was our only meeting with her we not only learned a lot about executing professional techniques in videography, but also about mindfulness. The focus on staying in the moment and not letting the past and future distract us is a very important lesson I hope we all take with us from our time with her. Ending our weeks with cooking as always, this week we were joined by the Director of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group Jamie Moore. He was of great assistance to us in expanding our minds with knowledge of how to prepare food well. He really helped hold the kitchen together, as we had more to prepare and more people eating with us than usual. During the past two weeks of the internship we’re moving into discussion on green careers and our futures past this summer’s internship. We’re preparing to apply what we’ve learned and done in the internship moving forward!

This Week’s Tidbits:

  • Did you know the ladybugs are natural predators of agricultural pests? Next time you find one in a garden, maybe whisper it a thank you for keeping harmful bugs at bay! (Learned from Ryan Gott, Associate Director of Integrated Pest Management at Phipps.)
  • Make sure to incorporate eggs quickly when cooking with them! If they aren’t quickly incorporated while being heated in a mixture, they can separate and turn into scrambled eggs. Eew! (Learned from Jamie Moore, Director of Sourcing and Sustainability, Eat’n Park Hospitality Group.)
  • Did you ever wonder where all Phipps’ bathroom waste goes? It actually goes into a constructed wetland by the CSL building, and is naturally filtered in there and pits of sand before returning to be reused in the toilets! (Learned from Ron Rademacher, CSL Docent and Volunteer at Phipps.)