Imagine a place where university students from diverse disciplines are engaged in learning projects that give them experience with sustainable communities and teach them about different aspects of our environment. That is the vision for the Sustainable Living Center (SLC): a space on the UCSC campus where students can apply academic knowledge in real settings, gain experience in sustainable technologies and community food systems, and prepare for becoming environmental educators and leaders. The SLC is being developed around the foundations that the Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) has built for the last 7 years.
The Sustainable Living Center’s hands-on education and demonstration site on the lower campus of UCSC engages students through its unique focus on community food systems. Here students learn about all aspects of food systems sustainability: by growing organic food in the gardens, cooking it together, and sharing it at the table as a community. Fundraising is currently underway for a Green Kitchen that will serve as a dynamic learning space with solar technology, a rainwater catchment system, recycled building materials, and a living roof. The kitchen will be linked with PICA’s numerous educational gardens at the Sustainable Living Center and be connected to a curriculum in Environmental Studies. The Green Kitchen complements our vision to create opportunities for students to engage with sustainability at every step of the food system.
As interest in sustainable living, local food systems, social justice, and community engagement grows on the UCSC campus, the Green Kitchen will become a vital part of a hands-on curriculum in sustainability. Here engineering and environmental studies classes can hold field laboratories where hands-on monitoring, measurement, adjustment, and observation will give students a basic understanding of the design and management of alternative energy systems. Education students will engage with an experiential educational model, where learning happens outside of the traditional classroom. Sociology and community studies majors will be able to examine how a student community engages critically with issues of environmental quality and social justice through connections with their food system. At the Green Kitchen classroom concepts can be converted into direct experience, but most importantly, in a fully operational living system.
The Green Kitchen will contribute to the life-enriching educational experiences that connect students to their local communities and food system. The kitchen is an important gathering place where relationships are cultivated, where old family recipes are tested, where talk about sustainability becomes action. Yet in the average Northern California home, the kitchen uses half of the household’s energy. In response to this, the proposed Green Kitchen model will use energy efficient appliances and be powered by a renewable energy micro-grid with solar panels and storage batteries. This stand-alone system will be designed to provide the power needs of the kitchen and create enough excess energy to charge electric cars & bicycles. Through this sustainable kitchen model we will reduce our carbon footprint and show that food—from how we grow it to how we cook and share in it—can be sustainable.
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To donate funds to support the development of the Green Kitchen, please visit UCSC’s online giving form.
Checks can also be sent to: UC Santa Cruz Foundation, Dept. 44787, PO Box 44000, San Francisco, CA, 94144-4787
Please mention “for PICA – Green Kitchen” on the check.
Contact Bee Vadakan, PICA Program Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.