All photos courtesy of Lauren Williams.
All photos courtesy of Lauren Williams.

Island university hosts inaugural Coastal Bend Texas Master Composter training

August 29, 2019

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. One way to practice sustainable living is to compost food scraps, yard waste, and other organic materials. According to Melissa Zamora, composting is important for a variety of reasons: It helps reduce food and yard waste, conserves soil biodiversity, saves money and allows us to connect with the earth.

As part of a statewide program, Zamora offered an inaugural Texas Master Composter course at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to encourage composting within the Coastal Bend community.

“Composting helps people and our community think about waste differently and take pride in doing what we can to make a positive difference for our home and surrounding environment,” said Zamora, a master composter instructor and facilities coordinator in the Department of Administrative Operations at TAMU-CC.

Texas Master Composter is a community-based program that engages public education and volunteer development to promote cost effective and environmentally responsible yard care practices, with backyard composting as the main focus.

To complete certification, students need 20 hours of education and training, followed by 20 hours of volunteer service. The five-week course took place from July 13 to Aug. 10 and was open to Islander students, faculty and staff, as well as area community members.

During the course, students learned a variety of topics from the basics of composting to the science behind it, Yard-Wise practices, and the differences between composting operation scales, among others.

For one of the sessions, guest speaker David Lehfeldt, deputy director of solid waste at the City of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Department, spoke on vermicomposting and the potentials of city-wide composting.

“I was interested in composting, but I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Debbie Linares, Islander staff and community member. “My mom does a lot of gardening and I wanted to contribute to her garden, reduce waste and do my part to help the environment.”

In addition to classroom learning, students gained hands-on experience at the Islander Green Team Garden. Students cleared garden beds and prepared them for the fall 2019 semester by mixing finished compost into the soil. They weighed and calculated carbon and nitrogen ratios to begin a new compost pile. They also crafted newspaper pots for seed starting.

“The more we teach others how to start actively composting,” said Zamora, “the more resources we will save, the more landfill space we will reduce, the less methane gas we will produce, the more money we will save on fertilizer costs, and so on because of the many benefits composting offers. We’re bringing diverse groups of people together from across the community and building connections between folks that may not have met otherwise.”

Currently, a cohort of 13 Texas Master Composters in training are looking for volunteer opportunities. Volunteer activities can include but are not limited to: working information booths on composting at public events, presenting on composting, establishing and/or maintaining backyard composting demonstration sites, and volunteering at university composting events. If you have available volunteer opportunities or would like more information, contact [email protected].

State of Texas Alliance for Recycling (STAR) serves as the statewide administrator for this program and provides the curriculum, resources and technical assistance to communities wanting to host Master Composter trainings. The course was sponsored by the City of Corpus Christi Solid Waste Department and hosted by TAMU-CC.

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