Pittsburgh is a renaissance city. It’s re-invented itself from a steel mill industrial hub to a center for science and technology research. But the collapse of the steel industry hit Pittsburgh hard, and the city’s population has been in decline since the 1960’s. Today, Pittsburgh has nearly 20,000 vacant lots as a result; many of them are blighted properties. Living in a neighborhood that experiences this kind of neglect is demoralizing and detrimental to the residents’ quality of life. Studies in other cities have shown that vacant lots can affect property values across the entire city. But an empty space holds a lot of potential too. It’s in all our best interest to transform these decayed spaces into areas of economic growth and a source of community pride.
That’s why I was excited to hear that a group called GTech has taken up this challenge. If you’ve ever passed a lively field of sunflowers in the city this summer, then you’ve witnessed their work. By enlisting community involvement in planting, tending, and harvesting sunflowers, GTech enables people to re-gain a sense of ownership and pride in their community. The sunflower seeds that are harvested from these gardens are then used as a source for biofuel production. Using new green technology to heal old wounds is a standard I hope Pittsburgh continues to uphold.
But GTech doesn’t stop at sunflowers, many properties are converted to community gardens, public art spaces, or recreation sites. GTech outreach services also provide educational and employment opportunities. And they manage the ReFuel Pgh program together with Fossil Free Fuel, which collects used cooking oil for re-use as a fuel source. So, there is no shortage of opportunities for involvement. If you’d like to help harvest sunflowers this fall just visit http://gtechstrategies.org/ and get involved. If you’d like to celebrate the wonderful work GTech is doing in Pittsburgh, then join in on the Big G Carnival at the Shadow Lounge on Saturday Oct. 22nd. There’s nothing like a solid community-empowering party to highlight your weekend.