Strength In Numbers: Unifying For Environmental Protection

By: Jennifer Morales-Muñoz, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at the University of Texas at Brownsville; MPPM candidate at the University of Texas at Brownsville

As a resident of the Rio Grande Valley in the deep south of Texas, I understand that unification is vital for addressing environmental issues in the region. At every green conference I attend, the message is the same: what happens in Brownsville, Texas, affects the neighboring towns: McAllen, San Benito, and Harlingen. Every environmental win or loss has a domino effect in Texas, for good or bad. Moreover, what happens around the Valley affects my EDF Climate Corps Public Sector site, The University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB), and vice versa.

During my time at UTB this summer, I learned that the university is great at developing and fueling community movements. This can be attributed to its supportive staff and enthusiastic students, who are on board with my energy efficiency recommendations, which include:

  • Occupancy sensors in hallways, lobbies, and restrooms
  • Window and skylight replacements
  • De-lamping vending machines

My ultimate goal was for the community at the university to realize that efforts to improve environmental conditions in the Valley must be shared since we are interconnected. Just as pollution crosses municipal, state, and national boundaries, positive actions and movements to reduce greenhouse gas pollution also flows through these invisible lines.

With unification on my mind, I helped the university’s Sustainability Council develop an outreach event to promote sustainable stakeholders’ practices from around the Valley. The council invited staff from neighboring universities who practice and teach sustainable behaviors. In the past, the council held awareness events promoting energy efficiency, community gardens, recycling, farmer’s markets, and ecotourism. They have also created a Sustainability Trail with signs identifying local wildlife and plants around campus to promote awareness and ecotourism. Also in the works are exciting projects including:

  • Bringing renewable energy to Brownsville’s campus by installing wind turbines
  • Developing a campus community garden

UTB’s Sustainability Council has been able to do a lot in a short period of time because of the support and cooperation of the administration and key staff. I believe UTB is proving to the Valley that unification is essential in developing strategic plans to address environmental issues of concern—just as discussed at our regional environmental conferences.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting!

    Thank you,

    Melissa Zamora
    City Commissioner
    City of Brownsville

  2. Joe Lee Rubio
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    I am impressed with the work generated by Jennifer…what started as a class research paper has morphed into a local movement, joining efforts already started by other established orgs. Good work, Jennifer! Applause!!