By Kristina Michel
When Melissa Halstead joined the University of Houston Office of Sustainability as sustainability coordinator, she was looking for an opportunity to bridge her two passions: sustainability and education.
She had no idea that one year later, she would have taken the office – and the University’s sustainability efforts in general – to new heights and broader horizons.
During her time in the Office of Sustainability, UH received Tree Campus USA certification for the second year in a row, the Office of Sustainability has partnered with the University Centers to expand recycling efforts on campus, the UH Community Garden benefitted from the most successful Whole Foods Community Giving Day yet, and the Office of Sustainability has established new partnerships with UH Energy, NRG, Moores School of Music and many more organizations.
“Our office is expanding so rapidly, not just in what we’re doing but also in whom we’re working with,” said Halstead. “I love that we’re getting UH and the Houston community more involved in sustainability.”
Halstead holds a bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and a graduate internship in dietetics from the University of Maryland at College Park. She is a registered dietitian and has done community outreach work with food sustainability groups such as the Sustainable Food Center in Austin.
Though she is well versed in the area of food sustainability, Halstead said that her job has helped her explore other aspects of sustainability.
“What I like so much about this job is it takes a holistic perspective on sustainability,” she said. “There are three main components of sustainability: environmental, social and economic. At UH, the Office of Sustainability has programs and partnerships that cover all three of these components, whether it’s the Campus Community Garden, Tree Campus USA, Shasta’s Prairie, our work with organizations like the LGBTQ Resource Center and Moores School of Music, or our partnership with NRG.”
Halstead is also pursuing a master’s degree in sustainability at Harvard University Extension School. She will graduate in May.
“It’s a very dynamic program. It touches on so many aspects of sustainability: the environment, social sustainability, green building, economics and even global climate change and international policy,” said Halstead. “It takes a realistic, hands-on approach to applying sustainability in organizations.”
She hopes to take what she’s learned and apply it within the Office of Sustainability. She would like to continue growing the office professionally and show how sustainability adds value to the University of Houston as a whole.
“I want to show people that sustainability has real and tangible benefits,” said Halstead. “Sustainability can help with student success and retention, it attracts new students to the University, it helps us become more competitive against other universities and colleges, and it helps us to stand out.”
When she’s not working, Halstead enjoys walking, hiking, doing arts and crafts projects, gardening, playing with her dog and spending time with her family. A Houston native, Halstead grew up in Sugar Land. Her family still lives in Sugar Land. Like her, they have careers in health sciences. Her parents are both nurses, and her brother is studying pharmacy.