Georgia College Is a Tree Campus USA

On February 14, 2017, I attended the second annual Mayors’ Symposium and Statewide Arbor Day Celebration with my colleague Susan Daniels. This celebration was hosted by Trees Atlanta, the Georgia Urban Forest Council, and the Georgia Forestry Commission at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center. This year’s event was titled “Colleges, Corporations, and Cities: Building Campus Sustainability.” Project managers, city officials, landscape architects, and sustainability directors were brought together to speak about the integration of urban forests into city and campus design. In their discussions, they touched on themes of inter-agency cooperation, the health benefits of nature, and loving our tree canopy. Between the presentations, the director of the Georgia Forestry Commission, Robert Farris, recognized new and renewing Tree City USA communities, Tree Line USA utility companies, and Tree Campus USA colleges.

mayors-symposium_2-14-17_10Fig. 1. Looking Down the Landscape Along the Wall of the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center, February 14, 2017.

At the symposium, Ms. Daniels and I accepted the Tree Campus USA award for Georgia College (GC). Started in 2008, Tree Campus USA assists colleges and universities in building healthy and sustainable forests. According to this 2015 survey, Tree Campus USA programs are in effect at 294 schools coast to coast, with 3,586,678 students enrolled at a Tree Campus. In 2015, those schools planted 38,473 trees and spent $46,406,176 on tree planting, care and management. This is money well spent, as the program provides many benefits to the campuses, which are outlined in this brochure. To receive the Tree Campus USA designation, schools must meet the following five standards: 1. establishment of a campus tree advisory committee; 2. evidence of a campus tree care plan; 3. dedicated annual expenditures for a campus tree program; 4. involvement in an Arbor Day observance; and 5. instituting a service learning project. In achieving Tree Campus USA status, the GC community has proven, yet again, it is committed to the mission set forth by the GC Green Initiative for design. This mission is to “[i]dentify and implement sustainable practices for building and landscape design on Georgia College campuses.”


Fig. 2. Georgia Forestry Commission Director, Robert Farris congratulates Susan Daniels and Kristen Hitchcock for helping Georgia College & State University become a Tree Campus USA community.

GC could not have achieved the Tree Campus USA status without the hard work of Ms. Daniels, the Assistant Director for Landscaping and Grounds. Throughout her more than 25-year career on campus, she has championed sustainable landscaping practices. She and her crew have composted lawn material; installed porous pavers; and practiced xeriscaping, among many other projects. Ms. Daniels explained that “tree planting is not new [to the campus]” because since 1998, the Grounds Department and Kendall Stiles have coordinated the Giving Trees program, based on The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. “Read the book. It says it all,” says Ms. Daniels, referencing the importance of the tree plantings. Moving the Tree Campus initiative forward, she will be assisted by the other members of  GC Tree Campus committee – myself; GC students Emma Brodzik and Julia Steele; GC Grounds Department Supervisor Aaron Seay; GC Chief Sustainability Office Lori Strawder*; retired GC botany professor Harriet Whipple; and Georgia Urban Foresters Beryl Budd and Seth Hawkins.

Because the Mayors Symposium was held on Valentine’s Day, the theme of loving your canopy was integrated into the day; and there are many reasons to love our trees, which provide benefits such as aesthetic appeal, shade and carbon sequestration. By ensuring that GC is a Tree Campus USA, Ms. Daniels has implemented a long term, sustainable management system to maintain these benefits for generations of our faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Regarding her reasons for starting this program at GC, Ms. Daniels noted that “I am a horticulturist. I have a strong mind body connection to nature” and expressed the “tree-mendous support, encouragement, and inspiration” she has received from GC President Dr. Dorman, Vice President for Finance and Administration Susan Allen**, staff and students. The support for and value of her hard work is reflected in the words of our community members below.

*“Personally, I love trees and, generally, anything green, so I am completely in support of more trees on campus. Kudos to Ms. Daniels and the Grounds & Landscaping crew for making the campus look and stay absolutely beautiful! Last year, this department kicked off the Arbor Day celebration by inviting departments, organizations and groups on campus to come out and help plant trees. The Office of Sustainability contributed by helping to plant trees on more than one occasion and will continue to support the tree population. The efforts of the Grounds & Landscaping Department in helping obtain the Tree Campus USA designation is greatly appreciated! Having this designation is commendable and another “notch in the belt” for GC on its path to becoming a more sustainable or “green” campus. This designation expresses further the commitment of GC’s positive impact on the environment. Trees are essential for the campus, not only for the aesthetics and beauty of the campus; also for the quality of air and plant life around the campus and community beyond. The annual addition of trees to the campus represents a life-long legacy GC makes to future generations to come.” – Lori Strawder, Chief Sustainability Officer.

“I am proud of Susan Daniels and her staff whose creative work on our natural environment at Georgia College has gotten national recognition.  The loving attention that she and her staff give to the campus trees, flowers, and shrubs is evident and was made even clearer to me many years ago when Susan sent an email message to the campus explaining why they had to cut down one of the old oak trees on front campus.  After the diseased tree was cut down, Susan had a ring from the tree placed in the campus natural history museum.  Although not in its original form, thanks to Susan and her staff, we still have the tree on our campus.” – Dr. Sandra Godwin, Associate Professor of  Sociology

“Georgia College is gifted to have over 400 acres of landscape over four campuses. Two of our satellite campuses have extensive natural forests serving both wildlife and human interests. Trees provide shade, habitat, water purification, and oxygen renewal in addition to their scientific and aesthetic benefits. On our main campus, the magnificent native and exotic trees are part of our institutional character, creating delightful settings for students to stretch out and be a part of nature. The Tree Campus USA designation will help us manage, maintain, and protect our extremely valuable trees, while bringing attention to the benefits that urban and natural forests provide. In several classes, we have mapped out our forest, including trees that provide edible fruits and nuts!” – Dr. Doug Oetter, Professor of Geography

**”I’d like to extend an ecstatic congratulations to Susan Daniels and our fantastic Georgia College Grounds Department Team for their leadership efforts in making Georgia College a Tree Campus USA affiliated University.  In bringing together numerous student organizations and faculty and staff groups across campus, they were able to plant 3,906 trees—an amazing and collaborative effort that supports countless benefits to the community at large.  This accomplishment demonstrates Georgia College’s intentional focus and commitment to sustainability.  Keeping a healthy inventory of trees on our campus is just good stewardship of resources and aligns with our institutional strategic plan. I can’t imagine Georgia College without the multiple benefits of our majestic canopy of trees; the campus’ aesthetic appeal would be negatively impacted without the beauty of our oaks, pecans, ginkgos, dog woods, crape myrtles, and magnolias.  Additionally, the trees create a healthier environment, helping to clean our air and save energy—Tree Campus USA reports that a single tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year; one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people; and tree shading can help to keep buildings cooler, leading to electrical savings. Needless to say, I love trees and am extremely proud of the progress our campus is making to help keep America green!” – Susan C. Allen, Vice President for Finance and Administration


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