A Greener Campus: UHD’s Garden & Compost Club’s Sustainable Mission
By Ashley Kilday, Contributing Writer
Diana Ambrosio first found out about the Garden & Compost Club during her freshman Welcome Week in Fall 2019. “The group was tabling and I attended a meeting held right in the garden. Considering my fond memories of gardening with my grandparents, I felt drawn to learn more about it in a university setting,” she recalled.
Taking on the role of president in the spring of 2022, Ambrosio reflected on the club’s mission to foster sustainable living through gardening and composting. “Our campus boasts two great gardens,” Ambrosio said. “These are communal spaces, inviting everyone to explore their beauty. Students are encouraged to frequent the garden at their leisure, even harvesting any ripe produce. Each bed features QR codes brimming with information about the contents.”
The Sustainability Garden
A significant part of the Garden & Compost Club’s stewardship lies with the UHD Sustainability Garden, which is open for educational and research activities. Although not officially certified as organic, the garden yields seasonable vegetables while shunning pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers. Student volunteer maintain the garden. “The experience of having individuals join us in planting has significantly contributed to our growth,” Ambrosio said. “Sharing our homegrown produce amplifies the joy of consuming something cultivated right before your eyes.”
Over recent seasons, the Sustainability Garden has produced tomatoes, onions, peppers, basil, dill, eggplants, okra, and beans. Looking ahead, the garden’s overarching goal is to generate enough bounty to bolster the UHD food pantry.
Equipped with a student-built aquaponics system (growing fish and plants together) and powered by solar energy, all biodegradable garden waste is recycled into compost at the composting center. Student volunteers collect green waste from the cafeteria and brown waste (cardboard) from the University facilities to feed the compost center.
Another garden under the Club’s domain is at the Sciences and Technology Building. Known as the STB Garden, the area consists of seven+ 15-foot x 3-foot raised beds. These beds are used to grow produce that the UHD community can enjoy, and like the Sustainability Garden, no chemicals are used in growing the produce. Research and educational activities are encouraged.
In collaboration with Dateline and other campus entities, the Garden & Compost Club extends its impact to the UHD community. Their initiatives encompass clothing drives, stress-relief events, and informative lectures hosted by field experts. Prospective members keen on joining the Club can easily do so through CampusGroups, and the Club maintains a presence on Discord.
Grow, Grow, Grow
As Ambrosio’s graduation approaches, she envisions the club expanding its membership base. She said, “Growing our ranks will enable us to further cultivate our gardens, inviting more members from our campus to explore their allure. I am confident that the seeds we’ve sown here will continue to flourish, inspiring generations of students to cultivate a greener world.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students, boasts more than 64,000 alumni, and offers 46 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences & Technology. For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution, and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.