KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo was honored with 2022 Tree Campus Higher Education recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management. This is the fourth consecutive year IU Kokomo earned this distinction.
The Arbor Day Foundation is the world’s largest membership nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees. Its Tree Campus Higher Education program began in 2008 to encourage colleges and universities to plant trees on their campuses.
Andy Tuholski, director of the Office of Sustainability and assistant professor of political science, said his office is focused on creating momentum to make the campus a destination for students interested in sustainability.
“Trees are an essential element of that ongoing effort, and it’s about more than just putting plants into the ground,” he said. “Our campus is part of a larger ecosystem, and we promise to do our part to continue to promote ways to make it better, healthier, and more diverse.”
Efforts have included an extensive tree survey to track the ongoing health of the tree population, adding signage with QR codes to help visitors identify the different varieties of trees and plants around campus, working with the Student Government Association to establish a new tradition of the senior class planting and dedicating a tree before graduation, and planting gala and honeycrisp apple trees in Sustainability Meadow, near the new beehives.
The office also founded a Student Sustainability Council, which gave away hundreds of books as part of a joint effort called the Environmental Literacy Initiative.
“We are so grateful to our students, staff, and faculty for showing up in record numbers to events, to the facilities grounds crew, to our all-star group of interns, and to Chancellor Canada and the administration for supporting these efforts,” he said. “We thank the Arbor Day Foundation for this recognition and are excited for everyone to see what we have in store for Sustainability Week and beyond.”
Trees on campus and in urban spaces can lower energy costs by providing shade cover, cleaner air and water, and green spaces for students and faculty. In addition, trees improve students’ mental and cognitive health, provide an appealing aesthetic for campuses, and create shaded areas for studying and gathering.
“Trees not only play a vital role in the environment but also in our daily lives,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Having trees on college and university campuses is a great way to show a commitment to students and faculty’s overall wellbeing.”
The Tree Campus Higher Education program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and engaging staff and students in conservation goals. IU Kokomo achieved the distinction by meeting Tree Campus Higher Education’s five standards, including maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and student service-learning project. Currently, there are 411 campuses across the United States with this recognition.