The Sustainable Living Center

The Sustainable Living Center’s (SLC) mission is to develop a model Action Education Center at UC Santa Cruz where a diversity of students engage meaningfully with food systems sustainability and justice through experiential learning. The SLC is a program of the Environmental Studies Department and home to the Program in Community and Agroecology (PICA) and the Community Agroecology Network (CAN). At the SLC, students from diverse majors engage in projects including food production, ecological landscaping, green building, alternative trade systems, and much more. The SLC offers students the opportunity to gain understandings of sustainable food systems, from the field to the table, in a community context.  

Action Education Process

At the SLC, young people learn the necessary skills and tools to become leaders in educating and engaging communities in sustainable and equitable food systems. The educational model we follow is for students to engage in project-based learning at the SLC, gain experience through community internships, and use the knowledge they gain from their internships to educate others in the student community.


At the SLC students are engaged in organic gardening and ecological design, participate in seminars about local and international food systems, interact with alternative energy and green building models, and take part in conscious consumer education regarding alternative trade networks.


Involvement in on-campus learning projects prepares students to apply their learning in regional and international community-based internships where they experience the interface between community needs and the environment.


After completing their internship students return to the SLC to educate and engage their peers. They empower others through mentoring and the sharing of collective knowledge.


This learning cycle has been integrated into the establishment of a new area of focus in the Environmental Studies Department: Environmental Education and Sustainability (EE&S). This area of focus gives Environmental Studies majors the opportunity to develop skills as teachers of environmental and sustainable education by incorporating the hands-on learning of the SLC with academic courses and internships that prepare students to work in schools, teach environmental education, and then analyze their experience and share it with other students. As students participate in this learning cycle of Engage, Experience, Educate (the 3E’s), they become active members of a community where they apply academic knowledge in real settings, gain experience in living sustainably, and prepare to become environmental educators and leaders.

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Academic Classes and Student Led Projects

Community-Based Learning