By Ayrel Clark-Proffitt, Outreach and Education Coordinator for the Sustainability Resource Center
The more than 8,000 trees on the campus of the University of Utah and at neighboring Red Butte Garden are currently in bloom, showing pale pinks, fuchsias and bright greens as the weather continues to warm. Those trees, as well as the U’s commitment to them, are at the heart of the university’s Tree Campus USA recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and sponsored by Toyota to honor colleges and universities for effective urban forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. The University of Utah achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include forming a tree advisory committee, maintaining a campus tree-care plan, dedicating annual expenditures for the campus tree program, observing Arbor Day and initiating a student community-engaged project.
As part of the application process to be Tree Campus USA-certified, last summer students from the U’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism worked with Sue Pope, facility manager for landscape and open space in Facilities Management, to engage the campus community in a water-wise landscaping project. With support from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, the U’s green grant program, the group converted 8,000 square feet of grass to low-water-use trees and shrubs on the hillside north of the S.J. Quinney Law building. The change is expected to save more than 100,000 gallons of water annually.
“Receiving the Tree Campus USA designation means being part of a national, collective effort that recognizes the importance of trees to our community and environmental health,” said Elise Gatti, doctoral student in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and chairperson of the Campus Tree Committee. “Not only do trees provide numerous free health benefits and ecosystem services, they are also essential to creating a unique sense of place and to enhancing the aesthetic quality of our everyday environments—our neighborhoods, our business districts, our streets and our campuses.”
Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation, said that participating in Tree Campus USA sets an example for members of the community, as well as other institutions.
“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” he said, which helps create a healthier planet.
On Earth Day, April 22, the Campus Tree Committee will host interactive activities at its booth during ASUU’s EarthFest on the Marriott Library Plaza from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., as well as plant trees on campus.
On Arbor Day, April 24, Red Butte Garden will host the State Arbor Day Ceremony at 10 a.m., and will also host “exploration stations” from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. that focus on leaves, roots, seeds and more. Entry is free for U students and $8 for faculty and staff.