Pittsburgh Embracing Sustainable Startups to Lead the Way in Climate Change Solutions


Pittsburgh has just selected a new crop of innovative businesses that are focused on sustainability. Wyatt Miller and Wilson Morse, two recent college graduates, created Green Bean, a software that allows employers to provide green benefits to their employees. This includes heat pumps, solar panels, and other sustainable technologies.

The City of Pittsburgh chose Green Bean and six other startups as recipients of PGH Lab, a six-month program that gives them the opportunity to test and pilot their products and services. Other winners include AirViz, which provides low-cost air monitors; Ecotone Renewables, which works to reduce food waste; and Roto Software, a platform that alerts the public when free or extra food is available.

AirViz, which spun off from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015, has over 100 sensors deployed in the Pittsburgh area that detect particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides. This helps to identify air-quality problems that would otherwise go undetected. AirViz sensors will now be installed in and around City buildings.

Independent activist Mark Dixon has been using AirViz and Purple Air sensors to monitor local air quality. He found them to be especially useful in monitoring volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are emitted by industrial facilities like the Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County. VOCs combined with sunlight form ground-level ozone, or smog, which has been linked to various health problems.

The PGH Lab program offers the winners publicity, access to municipal contacts, and a better understanding of how the city works. Thus far, only four of the 44 winners since 2016 have had a commercial relationship with the city, but the program continues to provide valuable lessons.

Green Bean hopes to use the program to answer questions such as how effective their software is in promoting employee engagement and reducing carbon emissions on a residential scale. They believe that green benefits are an effective way to recruit and retain employees, particularly among young workers who want to join the fight against climate change.

AirViz, too, is looking to help decision-makers solve air-quality problems, not just identify them. Their sensors provide high-resolution data and predictive and prescriptive analytics to manage air pollution and climate-change challenges.

The City of Pittsburgh is playing a unique role in supporting its innovative ecosystem and encouraging startups like Green Bean and AirViz. By providing these businesses with a platform to test and pilot their products, the city is helping to make Pittsburgh a leader in sustainable technologies.