When it comes to WKU’s landscape, it isn’t just hilltops that it is known for. For the third year in a row, WKU has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day foundation.
Tree Campus USA is a non-profit run by the Arbor Day Foundation that recognizes schools across the United States that meet certain criteria in their management of campus trees. The organization was started in 2008 to help increase the sustainability of college campuses.
Sean Barry, the director of media relations for the Arbor Day Foundation, said when the organization determines whether to provide the Tree Campus USA, it looks to whether the school is showing a “sustained commitment” to its trees.
“WKU is showing a demonstrated commitment to taking care of its trees,” he said.
Barry said the criteria the school must meet include having a tree advisory committee, having a tree-care plan, providing the opportunity for student service learning projects and observing Arbor Day. WKU made the distinction of Tree Campus USA by meeting all five criteria.
The Toyota Company funds the Arbor Day Foundation and Tree Campus USA to further its own goal of environmental sustainability.
Kelly Fisher, Toyota’s assistant manager of philanthropy, said Tree Campus USA has grown increasingly successful since its initiation, seeing greater participation across the country.
The organization started with a handful of campuses, and has now grown to 190 schools, which is an “all-time high,” Fisher said.
So far, these schools have planted 104,511 trees, according to Fisher.
For Barry, the increase in trees across U.S. campuses provides students and communities with benefits like cleaner air, water and energy savings, as well as less tangible benefits.
“Having a campus with trees makes it a more pleasant environment,” Barry said.
This is particularly important, Fisher said, because campuses have a large “environmental footprint” since they are effectively “mini cities.”
Beyond the direct benefits that campuses receive from trees, Barry said that there is a spillover effect for students as well.
“When people have a chance to participate in conservation-oriented activities, it tends to instill values of stewardship,” he said.
Fisher said she hopes this will help schools and their “environmental leaders” to improve their campuses.
“We hope to join communities and inspire them to make a difference,” Fisher said.