Story by Zach Avery, Reporter
Photo courtesy pexels.com
“Sustainability” was defined by the United Nations in 1987 as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” When applying the science of sustainability to a school or campus, there is typically a heightened focus on improving the health of the natural systems around the campus. This is precisely why Aquinas’ Center of Sustainability has introduced the Campus Tree Advisory Committee (C-TAC) and its new Urban Forest Initiative.
Jessica Bowen, the spokesperson for the C-TAC as well as the Director of the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College, lead the open meeting on November 5. Her fellow committee members were in attendance, available to answer any questions that came up from the other listeners. Some students were at the meeting, and several faculty members were present, including President of Aquinas College, Kevin Quinn.
The forest that surrounds Aquinas College’s campus has had a tremendously positive impact on the community. Residents nearby come in and stroll around the grounds all of the time, and many students cite the Aquinas’ green environment as a major reason why they applied here. It is an extremely iconic and important aspect of Aquinas’ identity. That is exactly why the college should make every effort possible to maintain and keep it healthy.
Aquinas College’s trees are dying. The massive canopy that takes up nearly 28% of the campus grounds is slowly aging away, with more and more dead trees being left alone each year. This overbearing number of dead trees has revealed itself to be a potential safety hazard to the inhabitants and pedestrians of the campus, so the Center of Sustainability has decided to act. Its new Campus Tree Advisory Committee has made it clear that tree care is extremely underfunded. They will have to take strong, progressive steps forward in order to guarantee a long and healthy life for Aquinas’ forest.
C-TAC has already drafted a series of short-term goals that will help them craft legitimate solutions in the future. By the end of this year, they will have completely updated the tree-marker system on campus. This is mainly to help determine which trees are invasive and toxic to our environment and which ones are native. A lot of this new information will be compiled onto the Aquinas College website. The goal of this is to shape the forest into a more Michigan-friendly environment, full of native trees that fit well with our campus’ soil. As of right now, only 54% of trees at Aquinas College are Michigan-native and almost 18% are actively prohibiting the growth of those Michigan-native trees. Eventually, the C-TAC would like to work towards an environment where almost every tree found in Michigan can be found at Aquinas College. They’ve still got a lot of work to do.
If you’re interested in the sustainability programs at Aquinas College or would like to get involved with the Campus Tree Advisory Committee, then you can get in touch with Jessica Bowen with the Center of Sustainability.