Two years ago I dragged my somewhat reluctant family out on the 2014 Pittsburgh Solar Tour. Spurred on by the Solarize Allegheny campaign, I figured we should look into this for ourselves. I was pleasantly surprised that there were several solar installations on houses around our neighbourhood.
I only managed to drag them to two or three different houses close to ours in Point Breeze, but even from that small number and a few chats and online exchanges I had with friends afterwards, it was clear that people install solar for different reasons and with different levels of technological grasp over exactly how it works.
There were the solar geeks who knew every data-point about their system, the expected production rates and who had the print outs of how much power they had produced each week, month and year since installation. There were those that were quite proud of the fact that they had no idea how it worked but were glad that it did. There were those whose main motivation was to do the right thing by the environment—replacing dirty power with clean and reducing their carbon footprint. There were also the sceptics, influenced only by the economics, that tried to persuade me it wasn’t worth the outlay.
But when the tour rolled around a year later, I didn’t need to drag my family out of the house for the solar tour—we were on the solar tour. In May 2015, we had a solar system installed—it took less than a week—and ever since it was switched on a week or so later it has been working away generating free clean energy.
So why did I decide to install solar? Probably a combination of reasons. Reducing our family’s impact on the environment was one the main one. Whilst the detailed specs of the system are fading a bit from my memory now, I still frequently look on my cell phone and monitor the electricity production.
I like that my kids are growing up knowing that changes can be made to help the environment. I like the fact that they notice solar panels wherever we come across them.
The system will take a long while to pay off (in our case 13 years), but I see this the same way as other investments in a house—you invest in the way that works for you. How many new kitchens are expected to pay for themselves? Right from the first month, we have not paid for any electricity from the grid!
I like the way it has made our family so energy conscious that we actually made more energy than we used over the first year, better than was predicted from our previous consumption.
Point Breeze turned out to be the leading neighbourhood in the Solarize Allegheny campaign and the only one to reach the goal of doubling solar installations. I am proud of being a part of that, and I love seeing more signs going up all over the neighbourhood showing that this trend is increasing.
I am truly a supporter of solar power. But you don’t need to believe me—get out on the 2016 Pittsburgh Solar Tour this Saturday, 1st October, ask your own questions, and find out for yourself.
Louise Taylor's home will be on the Pittsburgh Solar Tour again this year along with several other Point Breeze and Point Breeze North residences. Homes and businesses in Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, and East Liberty are also on the tour. Included on the tour map for the first time are four green roofs that have been created in Pittsburgh. Visit the Pittsburgh Solar Tour website for more information and to see a map with the location of homes and businesses within Pittsburgh and in surrounding communities. Three mapped bike loops are included, along with a list of sustainable restaurants. You can download a free Pittsburgh Solar Tour Mobile App at the website.
The current edition of Print: Pittsburgh's East End Newspaper has an article about Point Breeze North resident Fred Kraybill's outlook on the future of solar power and green energy generally. Only the beginning of the article is available online. Subscriptions can be purchased at Print or look for for the publication at various locations throughout the East End.
Crisp, cool air fills the sky under the 6 p.m. sun’s pink and peach hues over Homewood Cemetery. Brittle orange, red, and yellow leaves crunch underfoot in Frick Park. Coaches in standard fall gear—a hooded sweatshirt and baseball cap—bark out drills to the youth football team practicing at Sterrett field. Plump bright pumpkins line the sidewalk like bowling balls at the Frick Park Market. Milestones preschoolers wearing one heart-melting costume after another, cling to their walking rope with one hand and paper bag in another—in search of the ultimate October prize: candy! Diners at Pino’s and Point Brugge restaurants enjoy al fresco dining in the waning degrees of outdoor warmth. Many jaunt to upstate New York or New England to experience this classic autumn Americana. We have fall in Point Breeze—one of Pittsburgh’s best kept secrets!
Breezers take fun in the foliage seriously. The Point Breeze Organization (PBO) brings the community together as we transition into fall with two of our most popular events—the Neighborhood Yard Sale and the annual Bonfire and Hayride. Last year, over 100 houses had something to sell along the streets of Point Breeze. Whether you’re in the market for kid’s toys, housewares, furniture, or antiques, the 6th Annual Point Breeze Yard Sale takes the flea market to the next level. In addition, food trucks will be satiating stomachs at St. Bede’s school, along with their annual book sale. This year’s sale takes place Saturday, September 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Point Breeze Bonfire—this year on Saturday, October 1—is arguably the most revered annual neighborhood event of the year. The bonfire is lit in the center of Sterrett field on Reynolds Street and surrounded with food and entertainment, including kid’s activity tables, demonstrations, and live music, that keep the fun, along with the fire, roaring into the evening. My two-year-old daughter’s favorite bonfire experience last year was seeing wild turkeys in Homewood cemetery on the Hayride. We can’t wait to take her and our nearly year old son again this year.
This year, the PBO is also offering a Scavenger Hunt to entice children and adults alike outside to enjoy crisp fall days. First posted at the beginning of the summer, downloadable item photos and maps are still available the the Point Breeze website.
Each year we close October in Point Breeze with one of the most festive holidays: Halloween! Breezers embrace the fall holiday with more flare and gusto than a Hollywood set could envision. Jack-o’-lanterns line the stoops, ghoulish decorations adorn the houses, and ominous music floods the air. Hundreds of children—in costumes that are super cute, uber scary, and extremely innovative—convene on our streets to pack their pillowcases with candy. With many houses offering treats and refreshments for children and adults alike, Halloween is a can’t miss event! Our favorite is the cotton candy station on South Lang Avenue—just another reason fall in Point Breeze can’t be beat!
For more information about PBO events, please follow us on Facebook, Twitter @PointBreezePGH, and our website. We look forward to seeing you at our events!
We wish everyone a safe and happy autumn!
Vivek Subramany is a member of the Point Breeze Organization board of directors and is a regular contributor to the Neighborhood Report section of Shady Avenue magazine. This article is a slightly updated version of the Point Breeze Neighborhood Report that appears in the Fall 2016 edition of Shady Avenue magazine. Reprinted by permission.
Fall in Point Breeze
1. Purge your stuff! In the land of abundance where we all live, it is much too easy to accumulate stuff. Cheap stuff. Expensive stuff. Sentimental stuff. Doesn’t really matter how you define it—we’ve got it all. We don’t even really know how it happens so easily, but it does. We have the tendency to acquire and hoard things for ourselves, our house, our kids, our yard. Little by little our houses become mini storage facilities for things we only use once or perhaps never use at all. I don’t know if you have this phenomenon in your house, but in mine, stuff seems to multiply and repopulate on its own while we sleep. Closets. Basements. Attics. Underneath beds. Everywhere. Whether it’s our 6-year-old’s collection of paperclips, rocks, and rubber bands or my husband’s hat collection or my drawer of 86 handbags for various occasions, there they are. So, a yard sale makes a great rescue option. It’s an opportunity to go forth and purge and get rid of some of that ever-increasing stuff.
2. Yard sales promote recycling, reusing, and reducing waste. Why do some people only want shiny and new things when perfectly wonderful second and third hand items are just fine? Our society continues to be fooled by fancy marketing and advertising that only promotes fleeting trends and chronic consumerism. By hosting or shopping at a yard sale, we are recycling in its simplest form. We are reusing. We are reducing waste. Let’s all do more of this. Yes, please and thank you for being part of the three Rs!
3. Your junk is someone else’s treasure. It may be cliché but it’s true. Looking for those candelabra for a special occasion or a special tool to fix the leaky sink? Or a wheelbarrow for the garden? Chances are you’ll find it all at a yard sale. I once found a great wheelbarrow that only needed the wooden handle replaced. Once we replaced it, the wheelbarrow was as good as new! Set out your treasures for someone to find….and go find some new ones for yourself! The Point Breeze Yard Sale map (available online a few days before the sale and in limited quantities at various locations the day of) includes a listing of “hot items” and where they can be found. In the meantime, get a preview of the map here. (Click here for 2018 map. Detailed 2018 map available a few days before the sale.)
4. And, after the sale: Donate unsold items! Good news! What doesn’t sell can be easily donated afterwards. Your stuff is already out of the house, and you’ve released it both mentally and physically, so please don’t bring it back inside the home. Make that a rule. Stand your ground. Be strong, donate, and pass it on. There are so many who could use shoes, clothes, jackets, furniture, and housewares. Throw away anything that’s junk. Then put your good unsold items right in your car to take to a person in need or go to one of the donation drop off locations. Check out organizations that will take your donations here.
5. Show off our neighborhood and gather with your neighbors! The Point Breeze Yard Sale brings hundreds of people from all over the city and beyond. It’s a wonderful opportunity to show off our neighborhood and the amazing people who call it home. Mix and mingle with your neighbors as you set up and enjoy buying and selling. Meet someone new. Catch up with an old friend or neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. Laugh together in good fun about the apparent hoarding issues you have and be one another’s cheerleader for finally cleaning out that garage or basement. One of the top reasons people have enjoyed previous Point Breeze Yard Sales is exactly for this Reason #5 – gathering with neighbors and showing off our amazing neighborhood.
6. Make some cash! Yard sales can help generate some quick cash for your pocket. Multifamily yard sales are especially successful because the critical mass of participants helps draw loads of shoppers and bargain buyers. If your prices are set right – and you engage your visitors – you really can have a successful yard sale. Give yourself a little extra time to thoughtfully display your items in an organized and appealing way. Consider reducing prices in half or setting up a “buy one get one free” table for the last hour of the yard sale. You’ll have fun and make some extra cash by the end of the day.
7. It’s fun! Play music. Offer treats or coffee. Have your kids set up a hot cocoa or lemonade stand. Engage in conversation. Ask browsers if there’s anything they’re looking for or need. Have grocery bags ready for shoppers to take home their wares if they buy several things. Get creative and most of all have fun!
8.Refine your yard sale skills at www.yardsalequeen.com.
Register and pay online for the Point Breeze Neighborhood Yard Sale here or find a printable registration form here. To be included on the yard sale map, please register by September 9.
Shaun Yurcaba is one of the founders of the Point Breeze Neighborhood Yard Sale. Although she now lives in Atlanta, she remains a Breezer at heart and a dedicated supporter of our neighborhood's annual yard sale.