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Environmental Technology Center

Bringing sustainability to life

The Environmental Technology Center (ETC) is a hub for Chandler-Gilbert’s interdisciplinary Experiential Learning projects that focus on sustainability. In 2009, the ETC was established by 12 instructors from various departments and academic disciplines who worked with students from their classes, Honors programs, clubs, and community groups to bring sustainability theories to life—literally. By applying their collective knowledge, this group transformed a dusty, two-acre plot of land into an outdoor garden-based classroom.

Today, ETC is engaged in a number of sustainability initiatives. Learn more about current and past projects:

Current Projects

African Foods/Desert Permaculture Plot

This plot was created as a sustainability project in collaboration with four classes in Spring 2016 to learn about growing techniques in an arid climate. The agricultural plot — planted in the ETC outdoor classroom — is dedicated exclusively to cultivating food plants native to Africa using a planting style called hugelkultur, which uses very little water.

Food Waste Recycling

A campus-wide collaborative project that offers cross-disciplinary learning to students while pursuing innovative solutions for CGCC’s food and green waste. Students from such disciplines as Biology, English and Engineering participate in semester-long supporting projects, such as studying the broad impacts of food waste on the environment, and designing and building a pilot food waste digester machine.

Seed Library

A digital archive of photos, data and information gathered by students working with the plants in the ETC garden classroom. This resource is compiled as part of our ongoing commitment to preserving genetic diversity. While we may or may not be actively cultivating the plants from these seeds, the ETC is committed to their protection and availability. To further our goals, we are also currently in development of a physical seed bank within ETC.

Past Projects

Keyhole Plot (Spring 2016)

To learn more about environmental sustainability, students created a keyhole plot in our ETC garden classroom, using a cultivating method that works well in hot and dry climates like Arizona’s—or Africa’s, where the method was first developed. A keyhole garden holds moisture and nutrients using an active compost pile placed in the center of a round bed. Although most helpful in arid locations, a keyhole garden will improve growing conditions in just about any climate.

Adobe Oven (Spring 2016)

As part of a sustainability project, students built an outdoor oven in the ETC garden classroom, using native Arizona dirt that’s rich in clay, combined with straw that holds it together as adobe. An adobe oven traps and maximizes the heat while using very little fuel, such as mesquite logs or chips. By baking at high temperatures without electricity, these ovens decrease our carbon footprint.

Victory Garden (Fall 2015)

In collaboration with the Student Veterans Organization, ETC and History students planted a vegetable and fruit plot based on the concept of the “Victory Gardens.” These homegrown crop gardens were promoted during both World Wars of the 20th century as a way of keeping morale and nutrition high in a time of rationing. Students in our project focused on the historical context surrounding the original Victory Garden campaign, and the implications of climate change in once again creating a context in which urban agriculture might be vital.

Learn more about our sustainability programs and certificates in our (STEM) Field of Interest page