Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative

Long-term partnerships at the neighborhood scale

In 2013, the Institute for Sustainable Solutions began a program of pairing community organizations with faculty and students for multi-term partnerships to address sustainability goals. The Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative resulted in community-led projects in Portland neighborhoods including Lents, Cully, Lents, Downtown, Lloyd.

Between 2013 and 2017, SNI engaged 1,686 students and 28 community partners in 92 projects that advance sustainability and equity goals throughout the region. Project topics ranged from housing affordability to bike infrastructure and biodiversity education. The approach pioneered within SNI helped the Institute refine its strategy for supporting community-based learning projects and will continue to be deployed throughout the Institute’s community partnerships and projects. 

Read about Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative projects here.

Signature Projects

The following projects demonstrate the cumulative impact of the Sustainable Neighborhoods Initiative.

Malden Court Community Orchard

Lents Neighborhood—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, which was opened in fall 2016. Watch the orchard project video.

4th Avenue Public Parklet

Downtown—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

Cully Critter Cruise

Cully Neighborhood—Aiming to make science more accessible to elementary students, a group of community organizations partnered with SNI to design a hands-on biodiversity monitoring project. Using an online platform prepared by a PSU graduate student, the team took 5th and 6th graders on a field trip to a local park, where they learned how to identify and track everything from ladybugs to blue jays. Read more about the Cully Critter Cruise.

Sustainable Materials Management

Lloyd District—Students worked with leaders from the Lloyd EcoDistrict to accelerate waste diversion and reduction goals. They 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.


Community Partners

Green Lents, ROSE Community Development, OPAL Environmental Justice, Zenger Farm, APANO, Living Cully, Lloyd EcoDistrict.  

Impact Reports

2016 End of Year Report  |  2015 End of Year Report