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Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative


The Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative (SNI) connects PSU students and faculty with groups of community organizations in long-term partnerships that advance sustainability at the neighborhood scale. 

The SNI is managed by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and is designed for cumulative impact, with groups of students from various classes working over multiple terms on projects and issues identified by community partners. The SNI provides rich learning and research opportunities that engage students in addressing real-world sustainability issues, while adding capacity to help local organizations advance their projects and initiatives.

Meet our community partners here.

Signature Projects

The following projects demonstrate the cumulative impact of students and faculty collaborating with community partners through the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative.

Malden Court Community Orchard

Foster Green—Partnering with local organization Green Lents, students in three consecutive terms of an Intro to Civic Engagement course conducted door-to-door outreach to inform and solicit feedback from community members about the organization’s plans to turn a vacant lot in the southeast Portland neighborhood into a community orchard. Watch the orchard project video.

4th Avenue Public Parklet

SoMa—Located at the food carts on SW 4th Avenue, downtown Portland’s first public parklet—or mini-park—was designed and built by PSU architecture students over a period of 18 months. Students worked closely with SoMa and ISS staff to design the parklet, seek approval from the city, solicit support from local businesses, and launch a crowfunding campaign that raised more than $15,000 for building materials. Watch the parklet project video.

Cully Critter Cruise

Living Cully—This community-led nature and wildlife inventory of northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood was created and organized by students in an Urban Environmental Issues class, PSU’s Student Community Engagement Center, and members of Living Cully for residents of all ages to explore, identify, and record the plants and animals in the area. Read more about the Cully Critter Cruise.

Sustainable Materials Management

Lloyd Ecodistrict—For the past few years, students have worked with leaders from the Lloyd EcoDistrict to accelerate waste diversion and reduction goals. They've developed materials management strategies for the food court in the Lloyd Center Mall, planned an “EcoSwap” event to collect and exchange reusable items, and researched opportunities for area businesses to consolidate their waste contracts. Read more about the EcoSwap.

Get Involved


ISS offers support and guidance through the process of integrating community projects into class curriculum. We will connect you with an organization whose priorities align with your class goals, facilitate meetings, and provide project ideas as well as curriculum development assistance throughout the class. If you would like to learn more about how to integrate an SNI community partner project into your class, please contact Jamie Valentine


Throughout the school year, the SNI is continually working with faculty to integrate community projects into the PSU curriculum. If you are interested in taking a class with an SNI community partner project, contact Jamie Valentine to discuss options for the upcoming term.

Community Members

Interested in learning more about how to become an SNI community partner, or have a project idea to pitch? Please contact Jacob Sherman to discuss opportunities to participate.

The SNI has helped me make and deepen connections with the community and enrich the theoretical concepts through applied research projects. It advances PSU's motto of letting knowledge serve the city. 

—Vivek Shandas, associate professor, urban studies and planning


Read more stories about Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative projects.