Growth Through Energy & Community Health
Growth Through Energy and Community Health (GTECH) merges community development and principles of sustainability into a bundled strategy. They use vacant land to provide opportunities for sustainable development in marginalized neighborhoods. GTECH plants alternative energy crops on vacant lots and brownfields in Pittsburgh to both improve environmental conditions and build human capital. Crops including sunflowers and canola are planted to both produce oil seeds for biodiesel and absorb contaminants from the soil through phytoremediation. The organization has completed several installations to date. One is in a neighborhood called Larimer that has an estimated property vacancy rate of about 60%. There, sunflowers are being grown on a three-quarter acre lot near other greening project sites by other organizations. All the projects in the area have incorporated youth through summer youth programs. The sunflower crop was harvested in the fall with help from neighbors, scout troops, community groups, and churches in the area. The project was a partnership between Penn State Cooperative Extension and The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh. A second project involved planting a brownfield site, a former steel mill, with 6 acres of switch grass, 2 acres of sunflower, and over 500 trees. In addition, Carnegie Mellon University has used the site for testing robotic devices for planetary research. The next step for the site will be restoration of an 8 acre park area that will showcase robotic greenspace maintenance and provide for community education opportunities.