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Earth Day 2022

Earth Day (April 22) is an annual opportunity for us to consider our impact on the environment and reconsider what changes we can make to offset the effects of pressing issues like pollution, deforestation, and environmental justice in our immediate communities and beyond. At ASCEND, we acknowledge the role of our sport and the effects of human activity on the environment, and as a for-profit entity in the outdoor industry, we accept the responsibility of stewarding this space for future generations.

See below for our Earth Day Lineup AND a Very Special Interview with ASCEND's Sustainability Club Captain, Gretchen Uhrinek. Consider following the club on Instagram!

Note: We plan on hosting some earthy/local activities in Youngstown on May 21. Stay tuned!

Earth Day Lineup - Saturday, April 23, 2022 (South Side, PGH only)

  • 9:30a || ASCEND's Sustainability Club will kick off the day with a neighborhood cleanup, hosted in partnership with the South Side Community Council. 
  • 12:00p noon || South Side neighborhood cleanup concludes.
  • 1:00p || Get to know some sustainably-minded local Pittsburgh vendors!
    • Brenckles farm will host an organic vegetable seedling workshop.  Participants will leave with some bell peppers, jalapeño, heirloom tomatoes or basil of their own and event attendees will get early sign-up access to our summer CSA program.
    • Old Flame Mending will be available, making repairs and collecting items in need of some TLC. Attendees will be able to drop off their items at the event and collect them from the front desk upon completion (ETA: the first week of May).
    • Informative tables by Allegheny Cleanways and the Student Conservation Association will be set up for you to learn more about sustainable-minded opportunities within our region! Stop by to learn more about what you can do in the fight against climate change!
  • 5:00p || Tabling concludes.
  • 5:30-8:00p || The event will close with a free community screening of The Edmund Pettus Bridge to Climate Justice at ASCEND South Side.

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Very Special Interview

I (Rachel Stachelrodt, ASCEND Director of Equity + Outreach) met with Gretchen Uhrinek–captain of the ASCEND Climbing Sustainability Club– to gain some perspective on the role of sustainability in our organization, gauge future ambitions of our Sustainability Club, and discuss what to expect at our upcoming Earth Day (Saturday, April 23) celebration in South Side.

Rachel: When and how did you come to prioritize sustainable practices in your own life?

Gretchen: I started taking care of the environment by recycling and whatnot and then as it became more accessible, and more ‘hip’, it just became a bigger and bigger part of my life…the anthropogenic climate change bummed me out, but it also inspired me, and I guess that’s when I started to build autonomy by using less plastic, recycling, etc.

Rachel: What was that transition like? And if people are curious about reducing their carbon footprint, where would you encourage them to look first? 

Gretchen: I’d say “just buy less.” Food is also a good place to start. Try limiting your food waste by buying fewer things in plastic packaging. Buy bulk where you can. The East End Food Co-Op is a great resource too, and when the ASCEND Point Breeze location opens, that’ll be right there too!

Rachel: I love that advice, because it’s easier to stop doing a thing than to introduce a new thing into your existing routine, and rather than framing responsible consumerism as “do more and more”, we can actually say “hey, do less” and save money.

Rachel: Did you decide to captain the ASCEND Climbing Sustainability Club to help bring awareness to sustainability issues? 

Gretchen: So I’m not a very good climber. I’ve been climbing for about a year, but I think I recognized the welcoming kindness present in the climbing community and I thought “you know, these people almost certainly all enjoy nature…I mean, it's an indoor gym, but rock climbing is inherently an outdoor sport.” It seemed like a really good chance to build up a community, gather people with shared ideals, and get ‘out there’ to make the world a little bit better.

Rachel: Why Captain the Sustainability Club and not just join it?

Gretchen: Well, Sustainability Club didn’t exist at the time, and it seemed like a missed opportunity not to have this club, so I decided to see whether I could make it happen…I’m also a little bit of a nature dork–like I have like one of those litter grabbers that I think are actually for people to reach high shelves–and on a nice day, I'll just walk around my block and clean up litter, so it's stuff I was already doing and [I think] a lot of people would be willing to do that too if someone organized them. It just made sense.

Rachel: That’s remarkable. I'm really glad that you took the initiative by reaching out to South Side Community Council and scheduled our upcoming neighborhood cleanup. I go on walks all the time, and I swear every single time I go on a walk–by the time I come home, I'm wound up over all this trash I see on the street. All the garbage and litter is upsetting to see, but in the passing moment I'm not equipped to do anything about it, then I think things like, “Why do I keep forgetting to bring stuff to clean up when I leave the house for a walk? How did I forget that I will encounter litter, which I will want to pick up?” I know I shouldn't touch litter without gloves or a trash picker or any receptacle to put it in, so then I just feel annoyed at it and myself…But you initiated action to improve upon the situation, which I admire.

Gretchen: I don't know if you knew this but I'm in graduate school for biology right now, so that's also part of it. I’m learning about all of this stuff–learning about the environment and climate change and the anthropocene, so it's just very present in the forefront of my mind.

Rachel: The anthropocene?

Gretchen: It's the era we're living in now, where humans are the dominating force affecting the state of our planet.

Rachel: And if anyone in the ASCEND Climbing network wants to rectify that, they can join you at the Sustainability Club meetups! So, who is ASCEND's Sustainability Club for? 

Gretchen: Sustainability Club is for anybody who cares about the environment, that’s all it takes. You know, if you just want to be a good land steward, do something for the community, or even just make friends. The people who come to the meetups really like climbing and it's a really cool experience for everybody to get together over something in common outside of being [at the gym] at the same time. 

Rachel: What do you think that you would like to see from our Sustainability Club in the future? Also, what do you think you'd like to see for the Sustainability Club? 

Gretchen: I think it would be ideal for us to meet more regularly, possibly twice a month, and then maybe we could introduce a monthly or seasonal outdoor activity. It doesn't always have to be ‘a whole thing’ like the Earth Day South Side cleanup. It could just be like, hey, five of us go to McConnells Mill and like bring a crash pad, and we can pick up litter and then boulder for an hour. You know? I would like it to be more active than it currently is.

Rachel: For a second my brain heard you say “active” and I thought “Oh, no. We're gonna have to get really fit and swole together.”

Gretchen: Haha yeah, we're definitely not trying to get ‘fit’. We're trying to get the earth right.