Tree Pittsburgh’s sustainable Education Center and campus. [Photo courtesy of Tree Pittsburgh]

The Giving Tree: Getting to the Root of all Tree Pittsburgh Has to Offer

By Reese Randall


November 18, 2020

Against the backdrop of a bustling Upper Lawrenceville, bound by the Allegheny River there is an abundant resource of unbridled growth. Rooted in the mindset of enhancing community vitality, Tree Pittsburgh, the environmental non-profit organization restoring and protecting the urban forest — continues to branch out.

From tree planting and care, to education, advocacy and land conservation, the five acres upon which Tree Pittsburgh is situated embodies a solar-powered campus encompassing a main building and a Heritage Nursery (Tree Pittsburgh’s hand-collected and locally grown wholesale nursery). Staff offices, a workshop and an education center are found within the main building. The education center, also known as The Riverfront Room on the Allegheny, is used as a flexible indoor event space with views of the Allegheny River and a tree-lined outdoor courtyard.

“The main building is a sustainable structure,” explains Maggie Aupperlee, Manager of Marketing and Communications at Tree Pittsburgh. “The process of becoming LEED and Net-Zero Energy certified is underway, too.”

The outdoor space is a big draw for the organization, garnering inquiries for bridal showers, weddings, baby showers, corporate parties, graduation parties surprise retirement parties and celebration of life gatherings.

“This space is a big and beautiful green offering,” says Aupperlee.

The organization is following science and the guidance of the Allegheny Health Department and the State of Pennsylvania by maintaining its guest capacity, the use of 6-feet long tables (up to 15 people per table) and the donning of masks.

Responsible for the organization’s communications, Aupperlee also serves as support for all fundraising events including rentals for private celebrations and scheduling for The Riverfront Room on the Allegheny.  

Tree Pittsburgh celebrates sustainability and strives to be a model for lessening its carbon footprint.

“We encourage all of our guests to conform to sustainable practices by advocating the use of composting,” explains Aupperlee.

From advocating for limited use of balloons and plastic bottles, to a no rice rule (it’s unsafe for birds to consume) and organizing a pick-up of compostable plates and cups, the property guidelines are dictated by each individual event and the current climate.

“However, we have relaxed restrictions at this time due to the pandemic,” says Aupperlee. “Now we provide recycling and compost resourcing for our guests to use — anything that will further promote sustainability.”

Furthering that initiative, Aupperlee describes another opportunity for sustainability through the reuse of décor and says renting décor and reducing waste is just as important as recycling. While saving on décor, it’s every dollar from the rental fee that supports Tree Pittsburgh’s mission to grow and protect the urban forest.

“We work with community groups and other partners to plant trees which includes maintenance through watering, mulching and weeding,” explains Aupperlee.

Tree Pittsburgh also partners with Tree Revitalize Pittsburgh, a program that plants all of the city’s street trees.

“Our staff is all about endless learning. From 5-year olds to older adults we host everything from mulching parties and webinars for seed processing, to tree identification walks based on the seasons,” says Aupperlee.

Tree Pittsburgh’s path to forging a strong, community-focused forestry began by being built on a steel mill.

“We’re situated upon an old steel site,” explains Aupperlee.

Built in 2018, Tree Pittsburgh’s campus shows no signs of a steel mill today; as it lends itself to being a sustainable location for the main building and nursery. Cisterns have been put in place along the building to capture the first inch of rain from every rainfall, which is used for watering the landscaping.

“We grow seedlings, but we plant trees. We advocate and get our neighbors involved—it’s a beautiful evolution of tree life,” says Aupperlee. “We get back more than what we give.”


Tree Pittsburgh 32 62ndSt., Lawrenceville; 412-781-8733,


Reese Randall writes bi-weekly stories for The Green Voice. She's also the contributing restaurant editor for IN Community Magazines and food stylist for GNC. To see more food, fashion, photos and videos, go to