HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (Jan. 17, 2014) - Thanks to the efforts of Robert Redmon, director of Grounds Management at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), and Haley Hix, director of the Chargers for Sustainability, UAH is now officially a Tree Campus USA®. The certification will be officially recognized with a tree planting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on the greenway on UAH's first annual Arbor Day, Feb. 27 th.
"Trees are literally the backbone of the UAH landscape - they are the memories of our past and the framework for the future of those who will come after us," says Redmon, a tree enthusiast whose initiatives over the last 27 years include diversifying the number of tree species on campus and implementing a water-saving fertigation plan. "So this recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation is very rewarding. It is something that UAH deserves, and with it, we can continue to protect, preserve, and promote our campus' urban forest for future generations of students."
Launched in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota, Tree Campus USA is a national program that honors colleges and universities and their leaders for promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in the spirit of conservation. To obtain certification, campuses must meet five main criteria:
- Establishment of a tree advisory committee
- Evidence of a campus tree-care plan
- Dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program
- An Arbor Day observance
- Sponsorship of student service-learning projects
Hix, who prepared the application, says she saw the certification process as an "opportunity" to establish a committee that could create and enact the standards needed to preserve and expand the campus forest. To that end, she worked closely with Redmon and UAH's Facilities and Operations team to develop a Tree Care Plan that would establish a volunteer tree care program, refine current tree management policies, and grow tree canopy coverage by adding another 200 trees by 2015.
"All of these actions will help increase the benefits we already enjoy as a result of having so many trees on campus," says Hix, "including a significant drop in the amount of energy a campus, and community, needs to generate; a reduction in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and an increase in the amount of green spaces where students and faculty can relax and enjoy the outdoors."
That last point is especially important, she continues. "Trees are one of the main ways to provide a much-needed aesthetic escape from an otherwise urban landscape," she says. "In fact, a study from Texas A&M University shows that it only takes five minutes to feel significant recovery from stress after being exposed to visual settings with trees."
To help celebrate the certification, Hix is also holding an Arbor Day Art contest to coincide with UAH's Arbor Day ceremony. Artists across the campus and city are encouraged to submit their artwork between now and Feb. 21; the winner will be announced at the ceremony and presented with a free one-year membership to the Huntsville Botanical Garden.
"We wanted to open this contest up to the entire community," says Hix, "because while UAH Facilities and Operations made it all possible, the certification is for everyone. We are playing an important role in the community's sustainability efforts, so that long after we are gone they'll still be able to enjoy the fruits of our labors."
She adds, "I think Martin Luther put it a little better than I can: 'Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.'"