Tree Campus USA

2020 Vision For a Greener UConn

This article was written by Richard Miller, Director of Environmental Policy. It also appeared in the Daily Campus on April 19, 2018.

As the events of UConn’s Environmental Metanoia continue to unfold this month, providing students with dozens of opportunities for learning, reflecting and talking about issues like solar power, water quality, environmental justice and more, it’s fair to ask the question: “What is UConn doing to become a more sustainable campus?”  After all, in creating the context for teaching and inspiring our students, it’s important for the University to be the change we want to see, by demonstrating best practices and green technologies that make the campus a “Living Laboratory” for a more sustainable future.

With that in mind, in early 2017, UConn’s President Susan Herbst endorsed a 2020 Vision for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership. This is a strategic plan with 20 precise goals and metrics for success.  To achieve these goals, UConn will need to reduce its carbon footprint by 20 percent, compared to 2007, despite our growth since then.  That will mean big reductions in the energy, water, and fuel we use, and the waste we generate.

Students, faculty and staff were involved in setting these 2020 goals, and in giving feedback, including at a student summit meeting last year, about strategies for accomplishing them. As a result of an inclusive University planning process that focused on a series of ambitious targets, we’ve already made progress! Here are a few of the 2020 goals achieved ahead of schedule:

An interaction at Earth Day Spring Fling, one of the environmental outreach events hosted by UConn.
  • 100% of purchased electricity used at our regional campuses consists of renewable energy
  • Daily potable water use at the main campus has decreased nearly 40% since 2005, despite a concurrent growth in enrollment of more than 20%
  • 52% of our electronic purchases for items like computers, laptops and monitors are Gold-rated under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) – up from 23% in 2016
  • All eight dining halls in Storrs are Green Restaurant certified – making UConn the first public university in the nation to achieve this standard.

UConn’s commitment to sustainability is especially centered on understanding and addressing the social, economic, environmental, and public health issues surrounding climate change. Over the past three years, no other public university in the nation has engaged more undergraduate students than UConn has in the U.N.’s annual International Climate Summit and Conference of the Parties (COP), held in Paris, Marrakech and Bonn. UConn@COP is a nationally-acclaimed program aimed at developing future leaders in climate science and policy.

Last year, through President Herbst, UConn joined more than 2,300 members of a multi-sector “We Are Still In” coalition of American businesses, state and local governments, and universities, committed to continued pursuit of climate action goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Strategic coalitions like this will help keep UConn on the crest of what the Environmental Defense Fund recently called “The 4th Wave of Environmentalism,” driven by technology and multi-sector efforts.  

Policy commitments, together with specific operational goals and strategies for a more resource-efficient and lower-carbon campus, are helping UConn lead the way to a prosperous, clean technology future.

Tree planting with Jonathan! UConn was recently re-certified as a Tree Campus for 2017 by Tree Campus USA.

It’s Official – UConn is a Tree Campus

With Earth Day and Arbor Day fast approaching, UConn recently learned that it is the first college in Connecticut and only the third school in New England to be named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The University joins a group of almost 200 schools nationwide that have earned this distinction for their commitment to tree conservation and preservation.

arbor daytree campus usaThis certification is given by the Arbor Day Foundation to university campuses that effectively:

  • Manage their campus trees
  • Develop connectivity with the community beyond campus borders to foster healthy urban forests
  • Strive to engage their student population utilizing service learning opportunities centered on campus and community forestry efforts


Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium Japonicum) near Wilbur Cross. Photos by Mark Brand, UConn Plant Science Dept.
Pagoda Tree (Styphnolobium Japonicum) near Wilbur Cross. Photos by Mark Brand, UConn Plant Science Dept.
Shingle Oak (Quercus Imbricaria) near Wilbur Cross. Photo by Mark Brand.
Shingle Oak (Quercus Imbricaria) near Wilbur Cross. Photo by Mark Brand.


Former Vice Provost and emeritus EEB faculty member, Greg Anderson, co-chairs the UConn Arboretum Committee and was thrilled by this accomplishment. “This impressive recognition for UConn is gratifying.  So many people for so many decades have worked to make the natural environment not only a handsome complement to the ever-improving built environment on our campus, but also an effective way to frame the landscape and a useful tool for educating our students and others about a diversity of tree species.”  The Arboretum Committee’s website includes a Campus Tree Touring Guide to 40 different special trees that can be seen on a leisurely walk around the main campus.   “It’s great to see the long-term and ongoing commitment by so many students, staff and faculty be recognized in this way.”

A Camperdown Elm (Ulmus glabra Camperdownii) on the Great Lawn. Photo by Mark Brand
A Camperdown Elm (Ulmus glabra Camperdownii) on the Great Lawn. Photo by Mark Brand

The Tree Campus designation has five components. The first is a Tree Advisory Committee – the UConn Arboretum Committee fulfills this requirement. The second component of Tree Campus USA is a campus tree care plan. This plan contains information for planting, maintenance, prohibited practices, as well as goals for campus tree preservation. UConn’s plan was developed by the Office of Environmental Policy in conjunction with the campus tree warden and Arboretum Committee member, Eileen McHugh, who also spoke about the tree campus designation. “Tree Campus USA certification is tremendous recognition for the coordinated efforts at UConn to protect and promote the trees that are such a vibrant part of UConn’s character.”

A Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica) on campus. Photo by Mark Brand
A Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria Japonica) on campus. Photo by Mark Brand

The third component of this designation is a commitment to preservation of the on-campus arboretum, which requires both dedicated annual expenditures for things like planting and maintenance, as well as volunteer time. In 2013, the University dedicated more than $350,000 to campus tree preservation.

The final components of the Tree Campus certification are an Arbor Day Observance and Service Learning Projects. As part of Earth Day Spring Fling, UConn held an Arbor Day Observance and tree planting on April 18th last year. In addition to this event, UConn students, faculty and community members engaged in service learning projects through demonstrations and coursework.

The Dawn Redwood (metasequoia-glyptostroboides) near Arjona Building on Whitney Rd. Photo by Mark Brand
The Dawn Redwood (metasequoia-glyptostroboides) near Arjona Building on Whitney Rd. Photo by Mark Brand

Tree Campus USA is an annual certification, so this year, UConn is developing additional service learning projects, along with outreach events like the Arbor Day Observance.  Join members of the Arboretum Committee and others on April 22nd, during the 2014 Earth Day Spring Fling celebration, in acknowledging this distinction with a tree planting celebration (more details to come)!

– Andy


P.S. (From Corinne) – Andy worked incredibly hard to make sure that UConn received Tree Campus USA recognition.  Without his dedication, this project would not have been completed.