For Tree City, Tree Campus USA is next step to saving energy

Jinae West

KSU must meet five criteria by Dec. 31 deadline

In a city nicknamed for it abundance of trees, a committee on campus is trying to inaugurate Kent State into Tree Campus USA, an organization supported by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

Tree Campus USA is designed to encourage environmental awareness, tree management and energy conservation.

The annual expenditure required by Tree Campus USA is $3 per student, totaling to approximately $50,000 per year to maintain certification. She said that money would come from the ground crew’s annual budget and would be used to finance the tree care program that includes hiring contractors to plant trees, using preservation techniques and the annual maintenance contract. Because certification is valid for one year, reapplication is necessary.

“You have to meet the criteria every single year, or else they throw you out,” White said. “But I thought it was important to be a part of the first class. I know there’s a lot of emphasis on how the campus looks, especially on the front campus.”

The committee is comprised of representatives from the community, residence services, facilities management and other university faculty and staff. It ensures Kent State will meet the five standards of criteria by Dec. 31 in order to be considered for acceptance in the program’s first year. The criteria are a campus tree advisory committee, tree care plan, tree program with annual expenditures, Arbor Day observance and service learning project.

“There are a lot of benefits. It’s the right thing to do,” said grounds manager Heather White. “Trees help with storm water runoff, it helps with energy conservation and savings due to shading buildings and reducing heating costs. It helps to buffer noise when you have rows and rows of shrubs and trees, and it can block dumpsters and hide visual pollution. It can reflect heat off of hardscape surfaces, like trees in parking lots because that reflected heat gets sucked up.”

In order to take care of the approximately 4,000 trees on campus, and as part of the tree care plan criteria for the program, White said the grounds crew plans to participate in more tree maintenance – pruning and removing trees.

White said cleaning up damaged trees and limbs caused by the high-wind storm a few weeks ago was a testament to the kind of maintenance the grounds crew provides.

“I think that’s why we were so lucky,” she said. “We didn’t spend a lot of time cleaning up because we do have managed tree care.”

To get students involved in the program, Ryan Spellman, university recycling coordinator and student representative on the tree advisory committee, said he is creating a survey to be sent in mass e-mail to know what students want in regards to a greener campus.

“The survey is just about what their feelings are when they get to campus. If they feel it’s too gray or concrete or how much more color they would like,” Spellman said.

“I didn’t know much about trees until this,” he added. “I think the program goes well with the city.”

White said she’s also more than willing to work with students to get involved by way of feedback.

“Maybe Arbor Day volunteers in late April. Create something around it (students) can participate in. I’m certainly willing to buy a tree or two or three if they want to put it in the ground, maybe plant one for the Greeks. I’m really open to any ideas,” she said.

In addition to increasing student participation, White said, Tree Campus USA is also a way for Kent State to gain notability for its environmental campus aesthetic.

“It’s self-promotion, a congratulatory pat on the back. ‘Aren’t we pretty doggone good?'” White said. “It really gives us bragging rights. We do take pride in our campus. We have a really pretty campus, and another designation will just add to our credibility.”

She said other colleges in Ohio, such as Mount Union College and Wright State University, are applying to Tree Campus USA, as well, leading her to quip, “We’re going to sabotage them so we can be the only school.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].