Prove your humanity

VIDEO: Watch the ‘Sustainability Pioneers’ Documentary Series

If the news of the world has got you down, this short documentary series from filmmaker Kirsi Jansa might just be the pick-me-up you’re looking for. Sustainability Pioneers shows people taking bold steps to address the climate crisis and blaze trails toward a more livable planet.


Sustainability Pioneers: Finding Our Power from Kirsi Jansa on Vimeo.

Episode 10: Finding Our Power

Episode summary: The 10th and final episode of Sustainability Pioneers follows how one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, the Frick Environmental Center in Pittsburgh, rises from the ashes, and how the City of Pittsburgh takes a different road after president Trump reneges on the Paris climate treaty. We meet Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh, and Renee Lertzman, PhD, climate, energy and climate change consultant and engagement strategist, for their insights on how to help people move from “climate melancholia” to climate action.

Episode 9: Home Sweet Home

Episode summary: Millions of people in the most vulnerable regions around the world are already being forced to leave their homes because of climate change. Almost 40 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions come from buildings — both residential and commercial. In many European countries, energy-efficient, climate-friendly homes are common, and these low-carbon homes are popping up around the U.S. too. In this episode of Sustainability Pioneers, we follow a couple who is building a “passive house”  — a tightly insulated, low-energy home — in the Pittsburgh area. We also visit a 100-percent electric, straw-bale house in Armstrong county, Pennsylvania, and explore how performing an energy audit in an old home can reduce energy bills and climate pollution.


Episode 8: Going Fossil Free

Episode summary:  Energy transition does not happen overnight. It’s a step-by-step process. Steve Pomerance from Boulder, Colorado built a solar home after learning about climate change in the 1970s. Since then, Pomerance, a group of other concerned citizens and the City of Boulder have been paving the way for the city to go fossil free by 2030. Along the way, they are pressuring the state and the electric utility to go green with them. Jonathan Koehn, regional sustainability coordinator for the City of Boulder, explains why Boulder is attempting to municipalize its utility. And Karl Rábago, executive director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center, paints a bigger picture of how the utility industry is and isn’t responding to climate change.


Episode 7: From Paris to New York

Episode summary: Very few states in the U.S. have started to transform their economies in a way that would keep climate change at bay —and in a way that jibes with the Paris Climate Agreement. In this episode, Sustainability Pioneers visits New York, one of the states taking bold climate action. The goal of New York’s new energy policy, Reforming the Energy Vision, is to get half of the state’s energy from clean sources by 2030. Sustainability Pioneers also visits EcoVillage at Ithaca and Hunt Country Vineyards in the Finger Lakes to see how the energy transition is unfolding at the grassroots level.



Episode 6: Rooftop Transition

Episode summary: Small-scale solar, rooftop solar and solar gardens have been small players in U.S. energy markets.  But things are changing. Sustainability Pioneers documents how the Solarize Allegheny project is attempting to bring 200 new solar installations to the county, and how one family is taking a major step toward energy independence.


Episode 5: Becoming Energy Independent

Episode summary: One of Germany’s “green pockets,” Climate Community Saerbeck, is a model of energy independence. A town of about 7,000 people started its climate protection and adaptation work in 2009, and in just five years, the town was producing more renewable energy than it consumes. Sustainability Pioneers also interviews Ralf Fücks, the president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, and climate scientist Neil Donahue from Carnegie Mellon University. Donahue explains how we need to reduce our carbon footprint, and Ralf Fücks weighs in on how feasible this is in the U.S.


Episode 4: It Takes a Leader

Episode summary: The “Doomsday Clock” now stands at three minutes ’til midnight due to the rapid progression of the climate crisis. Unchecked climate change is now as serious a risk to humanity as the nuclear weapons for which the Doomsday Clock was created. World leaders have failed to do what is necessary to stop the course of climate change. Yet there are leaders who are modeling ways to turn back the clock. Sustainability Pioneers visits one of them, Mario Leone, Jr., the borough manager of Monaca, Pennsylvania. Monaca has reduced utility costs by 25 percent, thanks to energy saving strategies initiated by Leone.


Episode 3: It Takes a Village

Episode Summary: Sustainability Pioneers visits two communities wrestling with the promise and perils of fracking: Butler, Pennsylvania and Balcombe in the United Kingdom. Also, Josh Roberts, an environmental lawyer from Client Earth, talks about community power — a new energy system based on renewable energy that benefits the largest number of people.


Episode 2: From Haze to Sun

Episode summary: Part two of Sustainability Pioneers‘ visits with two companies and a private citizen who have already started building a bridge to a renewable energy future.


Episode 1: The Journey Begins

Episode summary: The way we use and produce energy impacts both our climate and our health. In fact, about 30 to 50 percent of the air pollution in southwestern Pennsylvania comes from energy production. In this episode, Sustainability Pioneers visits a family struggling with respiratory problems; and talks with Fernando Holguin, assistant director of the UPMC Asthma Institute, about asthma, air quality and climate change. Neil Donahue, professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, compares how different energy sources impact air quality and climate change; and Inez Azevedo, co-director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making, talks about the economics of our energy decisions.



Sustainability Pioneers is funded by The Heinz Endowments, The Fisher Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Roy A. Hunt Foundation. It is produced in collaboration with Rachel Carson scholar and energy consultant Patricia DeMarco and The Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University.