From Rain to Shine at Monroeville Mall
Keara Finnegan, 12th Grade
Picture it. You’re back to being seventeen years old, a senior in high school. Walking into the mall to your part-time job leaves you with a hint of excitement for what the day holds. American Eagle starts to come into view, but as you’re halfway there, the excitement you felt only moments ago starts to fade. Tip tip, tap tap. The rain can easily be heard from the small, opaque openings in the roof on this rainy Saturday. You walk in the store just to have your manager tell you that, yet again, we’re lacking customers for the day. The next eight hours go by painfully, as only thirty to forty customers have come in throughout the day. It’s now an hour after close, you and two of your coworkers begin to walk out of the mall, only to realize that it hasn't stopped raining since earlier. The roads surrounding the mall have flooded. Now really think about this. This is my life. This isn’t the mall I remember as a child, with people bustling past me. The touch screen at the entrance of the food court that I remember so vividly as a kid, suddenly gone, along with the amazing memories other children have built from that time. As a senior in high school who easily works over forty hours biweekly at Monroeville Mall, I am able to identify many flaws the mall has in terms of sustainability and inclusiveness for youth.
From an economic standpoint, Monroeville Mall is starting to decline. From filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in November of 2020 to becoming threatened to close, reinvesting in the mall could provide astronomical effects. Once or twice every month, I take notice of private vendors coming in to sell their products. As these private vendors help to contribute to their own incomes, we should focus more on how to help our local economy. Why not encourage local farmers to come rent stalls every weekend to sell their products? If some even choose to do so, why not allow them to buy out stores that have gone out of business? Buying from these local produce stands or stores allows for them to stay at the mall while protecting their farmland, creating job opportunities, and opening many pathways to improve public infrastructure. At the food court, I often see way too many people that purchase food not eat it all and throw it away. While it’s not an issue that not all of the food is consumed, there are many ways to dispose of it that the mall could encourage. Disposing of food waste separately is a less expensive alternative than just throwing it in the trash. Individual food waste bins could be installed separately from a recyclable bin for plastic or paper based products. By keeping these items separated, trash pickup services tend to lower fees so that the wasted food can be automatically sent to a compost facility. By listening to these suggestions, we, as a community, can help Monroeville Mall grow economically.
Over the years, Monroeville Mall has attracted less and less people, creating an indirect relationship as restrictions have increased. In order to create a safe space that allows for sociality to blossom, there are some changes that need to be made. Enticing youth to come to the mall is a priority. Creating a new and unique type of play space that allows children to learn how to uphold sustainability is one proposable option. Having children blow on a pinwheel and allowing a lightbulb to light in the process would help teach about wind and renewable energy sources. Allowing kids to play on a digital screen to throw food waste in a compost bin, recyclables in a recycling bin, and other garbage in a garbage can encourages learning about sorting and recycling of wastes. These different types of activities allow for children to indirectly learn about keeping our environment sustainable while still encouraging them to have fun. Another way to push for more people to come shop is to create incentives for them. This could be done through a point system, where for every “eco-friendly” decision they make earns them points, resulting in discounted items or prizes. Monthly local auctions could also be held in unused spaces of the mall, where people could bring in items they want to sell and consumers can buy and auction on products they want. These changes and alterations will allow for more people to come to the mall and social aspects to increase drastically.
Overall, Monroeville mall contributes lots of pollution. Whether it’s CO2emissions from inefficient energy use, runoff pollution from the parking lot, and more. Reducing pollution emissions to a bare minimum is a necessity. One possible way to do this is to address the parking lot situation. Because the mall’s parking lot is slightly slanted, polluted runoff easily flows into the Turtle Creek watershed. One way to fix this problem is to allow swells to surround it. By using this low-impact design and putting highly permeable soil into these swells, much of the runoff can be absorbed, and flash floods wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Creating water gardens in areas of the parking lot may also help to address this issue. Installing these water gardens and rooftop gardens help with water overflow, but through photosynthesis, also steeply decline the amount of CO2that is in the air. Another issue the parking lot creates is the urban heat island effect. Due to the large, paved area, this surface absorbs much more heat, resulting in less cooling and transpiration from plants. This causes slight increases in temperature in this area, as well as surrounding areas. One way to address this issue would be to provide adequate shading over the parking lot. This can be done through canopies, fabric shades, or even trees, just as long as the area is not able to absorb as much energy from the sun. By creating a “bring-your-own-bag” policy, similar to the system Aldi’s has, the amount of waste would decrease and efficiency would sharply increase. These suggestions will minimize pollution emissions while also maximizing possible environmental sustainability.
The rain finally began to clear. The memories I held so dear from the mall started to flood back as people bustle past me, children playing and laughing all around. As I look to the future for what could become of the mall, this is what I genuinely hope for. I know that as a community, we can all help to make Monroeville Mall economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable while allowing inclusiveness for youth.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Sustainability.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 21 Jan. 2021, www.epa.gov/sustainability.
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Sustainable Management of Food Basics.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 13 Jan. 2021, www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/sustainable-management-food-basics.
University of Scranton Office of Sustainability. “What You Can Do to Promote Sustainability?” The University of Scranton - A Jesuit University, www.scranton.edu/sustainability/what-can-you-do.shtml.
About Keara Finnigan
As a 17-year-old senior at Norwin High School, Keara has a part-time job at American Eagle in Monroeville Mall. She hopes to further her education after high school to become an environmental teacher and has been accepted into the University of Pittsburgh for a teaching undergraduate. Keara would like to make a change in the world environmentally, and influence others to do the same!