Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.35
Liaison Christa Rieck
Submission Date Nov. 23, 2015
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.0

University of Houston
EN-9: Community Partnerships

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 3.00 / 3.00
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “supportive”?:

A brief description of the institution’s supportive sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:

Over the past few years, the University of Houston has served as zone leader for the sustainability zone at Earth Day Houston. Other zones are focused on topics such as land, air, water, healthy living, wildlife and habitat. Earth Day Houston also features green expos with vendors, a local fare market, live music, a beer garden, food trucks and an eco-artist’s village. Approximately 15,000 people from the surrounding community visit the annual festival, featuring over 100 exhibitors. UH's zones have been continually praised by festival goers as the most engaging and and educating aspect of the festival.

The University of Houston zone leader tent is coordinated by UH Energy and the UH Office of Sustainability. Supportive efforts by the University of Houston zone leader tent includes a variety of university groups who offer their unique expertise in the sustainability zone. The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science launched a weather balloon to educate the community about atmospheric monitoring. The UH Center for Advanced Materials (CAM) provided hands on solar cell activities and quizzes for kids; including demos on solar-powered toy cars, grasshoppers, fans and light bulbs. CAM also provided informational posters and handouts about their research and outreach activities. The UH Turbine Team displayed components of their partially built turbine to show the mechanics of wind energy. Other university groups include Dining Services, the College of Architecture, the Smart HVAC team, the Air to Aqua team, Enactus, the Energy Association and the Energy and Sustainability Initiative.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “collaborative”?:

A brief description of the institution's collaborative sustainability partnership(s):

The University of Houston Office of Sustainability has a formal, ongoing partnership with the local non-profit organization Urban Harvest. As part of this collaboration, UH provides classroom space to Urban Harvest for their classes. In return, Urban Harvest provides professional advice on organic growing principles in the campus community garden, which has proved invaluable to its success. As part of the partnership, Urban Harvest also works with other university groups like the UH Bonner Leaders, the Gulf Coast Food project, and Health & Human Performance students and faculty.

While the garden is run primarily by two paid student workers in the office of sustainability, campus and community members volunteer in the garden to weed, harvest, plant, fill beds, and compost, strengthening ties between the university and the surrounding community. The garden is financially supported through the Office of Sustainability's budget and fruit, herbs and vegetables are donated to food pantries in Houston's Third Ward. The University of Houston is located within the Third Ward where many residents are low-income and almost the whole ward is considered a food desert.

Does the institution have at least one formal sustainability partnership with the local community that meets the criteria as “transformative”?:

A brief description of the institution's transformative sustainability partnership(s) with the local community:

In November 2011, University of Houston Research Professor Carroll Parrott Blue received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Our Town Initiative. With this grant, she began developing relationships with both community and University stakeholders to generate a needs assessment originally focused on developing a SMART Park.

Since then, the program's scope has grown to encompass other community projects such as "Bayou Voices", the Jack Yates Middle School Photography Program, the Park at Palm Center, and more. It was Blue's intention to identify a team of stakeholders that would eventually takeover her efforts so that the community could continue these efforts of improvement beyond the initial grant's duration, which was realized through the formation of the Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance.

In order to address the concerns raised from the results from Our Town’s initial work, SEHTA was formed in October 2012 and received its 501(c)(3) non-profit status in March 2013. The Southeast Houston Transformation Alliance (SEHTA) was formally established by stakeholders from Blue's team. SEHTA is a collaborative effort that brings together residents and key stakeholders to transform Southeast Houston area into a healthy, vibrant, and economically stable community.

Three guiding principles emerged from the community’s input and participation in Our Town’s activities, plans, historic research and arts as supported by this grant:

• Personal and environmental health, wellness, and nutrition
• Urban connectivity
• Community empowerment and organization

GO Neighborhood: In January 2013, OST/South Union was designated a GO Neighborhood by Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). SEHTA serves as the Steering Committee in conjunction with Neighborhood Recovery Community Development Corporation (NRCDC) as the Convening Agency. GO Neighborhoods is a multi-year comprehensive initiative for revitalizing Houston communities by addressing the many aspects of developing a sustainable community – a good place to work, live, and raise a family. Additional technical assistance came in January 2013 from Blue’s National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program award.

Most recently SEHTA produced a mobility report for the region, detailing aspects of transportation in the community and its impact on health. For example, the report highlighted the need for better public transportation to get out of "food deserts" and the health benefits of walking and biking.

While Blue's involvement in SEHTA is scaling back, the University of Houston continues to support SEHTA with funding and faculty/staff collaboration to continue this truly transformative effort. The program's impacts, including the needs assessment, can be found in the links in the notes section below.

A brief description of the institution’s sustainability partnerships with distant (i.e. non-local) communities:

The website URL where information about sustainability partnerships is available:
Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

Earth Day Houston Landing Page: http://www.uh.edu/af/earthday-2014/

More details and some feedback on UH Earth Day Participation: http://www.phys.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2012/0419_earthDay.php

SMART Park details: http://www.uh.edu/news-events/stories/2011articles/July2011/0712CarrollParrotBlue.php

Southeast Houston Arts Alliance (Needs Assessment and other documents): http://arts.gov/exploring-our-town/southeast-houston-arts-initiative

SEHTA main page: http://sehta.org/

SEHTA Mobility Report 2014: http://www.bayouvoices.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Mobility-Report_rev-15jun15.pdf

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.