Valencia West Campus celebrates going green

Students and faculty members participated in the planting of 100 trees on Valencia’s West Campus last Thursday, March 29. The trees were donated by the Arbor Day foundation in conjunction with the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, with support from Toyota for the Tree Campus USA program.

“We at Valencia are deeply honored to have been named a Tree Campus USA and to have been chosen to receive such a generous donation from the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota,” said Valencia College president, Sanford Shugart. “We take seriously our goal of educating the whole of students and we believe that includes teaching our students to be stewards of the environment.”

Fifteen different types of trees were planted, such as winged elm and Southern red cedar trees planted on the southern and western sides of buildings to reduce energy use, and longleaf pine trees planted in the open fields near Kirkman Road for sandhill restoration.

Other trees included longleaf pine, loblolly, fringe tree, sugarberry, Florida elm, red maple, slash pine, sweetgum, hickory, flatwoods plum, wax myrtle, Walter’s viburnum and persimmon.

“The trees are very important to us,” said Helene Loiselle, Assistant Vice President of Facilities and Sustainability at Valencia College. “They provide shade, so we use less energy in the building; they absorb carbon dioxide, so we decrease our carbon footprint; they provide habitats for animals and birds; and they also are a learning instrument for students to learn about the native species that we’re planting around campus today.”

Valencia is one of seven schools in the Tree Campus USA program, which is on its fourth year. The Arbor Day Foundation is planning on awarding 154 colleges and universities with the same distinction. Other Tree Campus USA schools in Florida include Florida International University, College of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and University of Central Florida.

“It’s important to take care of the earth.” said Diego Salazar, Valencia student and Tree Campus USA volunteer.

Jennifer Boettecher, the program manager for the Arbor Day Foundation explained that Valencia met the five required core standards for sustainable campus forestry, which include a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, and Arbor Day observance and the sponsorship of student service-learning projects.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a nonprofit conservation and education organization of one million members, with the mission to “inspire people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.”