Islander Green Team Continues to Spread Eco-Awareness, One Student at a Time

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – When Melissa Zamora founded the student-led portion of the Islander Green Team in 2016, the organization was just starting to become the force for good it is today. Now, two years later, the Green Team has rapidly expanded its eco-friendly initiatives while garnering acclaim from the local community.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, the Islander Green Team will be one of nine recipients of the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s 16th Annual Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Award. The Conservation & Environmental Stewardship Awards Program searches the community for citizens, educators, and businesses who are leading the community in their efforts to protect and understand the resources of the Coastal Bend.

“This award means a lot to us because we are not just gaining city-wide recognition for our actions; we are setting an example for the city to follow,” said Zamora. “It shows our students that we are becoming a distinguished organization and that the Green Team is something to be proud of.”

With the allocation of funding from the Island University and help from The Environmental Health & Safety Office, the Islander Green Team has created several paid student positions within their organization, allowing for them to have a better focus on their existing projects. Green Team was able to introduce a number of new sub-committees, each with the purpose of exploring and solving various environmental issues. These committees include: the garden and compost committee, the water quality committee, the zero-waste committee, and the education & outreach committee. Each committee has further expanded the reach of Green Team, allowing them to increase the size of their efforts while building stronger relationships with the surrounding community.

“Because I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, I see that there are a lot of opportunities for eco-friendly growth in this industrial city,” said Zamora. “That’s a part of why I chose to study environmental science and found the student-led Green Team – to raise environmental awareness from the bottom up.”

In addition to making waves in the community, Green Team has also made an equally large impact on campus. Since 2016, more than 49,000 pounds – that’s 24.5 tons – of coffee grounds, food, and yard waste from the Island University have been composted and turned into fertilizer, allowing for the rejuvenation of gardens and landscapes areas across the city. This compost has also been put to use at the Islander Gardens, another one of Green Team’s on-campus projects. From fruits to flowers; students and staff can use these plots of land to grow whatever they please. The Green Team also helps manage the garden at the Early Childhood Development Center, where elementary aged students are encouraged to learn the importance of organic gardening skills. Recently, Green Team’s gardening efforts have expanded past the Islander campus to the The Antonio E. Garcia Arts and Education Center, where the organization planted various types of vegetables, flowers and herbs for the community to enjoy.

There are also several smaller but equally important places the Green Team’s reach becomes apparent on the Island University. Water refill stations can be found in many buildings on campus, preventing the purchase and disposal of hundreds of plastic bottles. Squat blue recycling stations of different sorts can also be spotted scattered around the University, stopping batteries and ink cartridges from finding their way into the ecosystem and leaking a bevy of harmful chemicals.

In the time since she founded and presided over the Islander Green Team, Zamora has graduated and become a full-time employee of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. In her new position, Zamora seeks to implement green initiatives on a larger scale. Although she is no longer a part of the green team, a new and growing base of student volunteers has assumed her mantle.

“Environmental sustainability is something that we should all strive toward. The Green Team is my way of doing that now,” said current Islander Green Team member Dawid Kala. “It helps me live a more sustainable life. This is our planet; we only get one of them.”