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Campus sustainability efforts earn distinction, grants

Campus Life Jun 7, 2024
Image of a gloved hand holding a bee hive frame

KOKOMO, Ind. — In the last year, Indiana University Kokomo students have planted trees, removed invasive plant species and replaced them with native plants, participated in bird banding sessions, learned about beekeeping, and hosted sustainability programming to educate the campus community.

Their efforts have been rewarded with the 2023 Tree Campus Higher Education recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation, Bee Campus USA certification from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, and a $15,000 grant from the Audubon Society from the Audubon in Action program.

Andy Tuholski, director of the Office of Sustainability and assistant professor of political science, said the grant will support events, provide ability to purchase bird banding equipment, bird seed, and feeder attachments, and provide funding for additional native plants and invasive removal. It will also provide further funding for the Student Sustainability Council’s environmental literacy initiative, guest speakers, and an educational birding trip.

“This is a big deal for such a young organization,” he said, adding that the Council was founded just three years ago, and became an Audubon Campus Affiliate in 2022. “This provides further evidence of some of the amazing things that our students are doing for the betterment of IU Kokomo. I’m proud to work with them.”

IU Kokomo is among 411 universities nationwide honored with the Tree Campus Higher Education recognition for its commitment to effective urban forest management. This is the fifth consecutive year to earn the distinction.

The campus also received the bee campus distinction for the second time, in the third year since four hives were installed in Sustainability Meadow. They are maintained by Shue Bee Farm of Russiaville. There are 189 Bee Campus affiliates.

“These are good examples of our ongoing commitment,” he said. “It is nice to receive the distinctions and provides us incentive to keep going with our efforts.”

The group planted apple trees on campus for the first time this year, near the bee hives, and planted a sycamore tree donated by the Symposium, a women’s philanthropy group. They also hosted a beekeeping demonstration open to the public and harvested approximately 80 pounds of honey from the campus hives. Women of the Well House, the campus philanthropic giving circle, has also funded multiple projects.

“This is part of our overarching effort to create biodiversity and create service opportunities for our students,” Tuholski said. “We want to leave campus better than we found it.”

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.

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.

Thinking globally and acting locally, Bee Campus USA provides a framework for university and college campus communities to work together to conserve native pollinators by increasing the abundance of native plants, providing nest sites, and reducing the use of pesticides.

​Bee Campus USA affiliates make commitments to conserve native pollinators. Students, faculty, administrators, and staff work together to carry out these commitments and make their campus a better place for pollinators.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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Danielle Rush, communications specialist

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