Volunteers came together to celebrate the second UCI tree planting on April 22, funded by a grant by the Arbor Day Foundation and Toyota.
Students met in Aldrich Park alongside UCI faculty and staff to celebrate the victory and continue the tradition of planting new campus trees.
The Arbor Day Foundation on Nov. 19 recognized UCI for its efforts in pursuing a greener, environmentally friendly campus through the stewardship of campus trees. As a part of this award from the Tree Campus USA program, the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with Toyota came together to sponsor a large-scale tree planting on campus, where hundreds of students participated in planting trees across Aldrich Park. Along side the tree-planting efforts, there was also a contest called “Text for Trees.” The campus with the most picture texts of the tree planting would win an additional $2,500 worth of trees for another volunteer tree-planting project in the future. UCI dominated the competition, sending more texts than five other universities also participating in their own campus tree plantings during fall.
Kevin Schlunegger of The Green Initiative Fund spoke at the event, highlighting the incredible achievements of the many campus green initiatives in progress. From the 25,000 trees on campus, to the many student and campus initiatives like the Anteater Garden Initiative and energy efficient buildings throughout campus, UCI has made strives to promote going green.
Kevin also focused on the student volunteers. “What I love about my generation is that we are resilient. We can dig out of the hole our parents left us,” he said to a laughing crowd. With issues of global warming, climate change and natural disasters dominating the media, it is important to remember that every little step that newer generations can take toward a greener future is important. On campus, the surge of student-led initiatives will lead the way.
Cynthia Leung, the team manager and president of the Green Campus Program, also spoke during the event on the many successes Green Campus has seen working with campus officials. Green Campus worked with the Mesa Court Housing Department to aid in the installation of water-saving faucets in the sustainability hall, Vista, this past summer, and more recently worked with Mesa Court Dining Commons to optimize the usage of electrical lighting during the day.
“Everyone associates being green with planting a tree,” she said. “I planted a tree, now what can I do.”
As students get their foot in the green door, they begin to look at other projects. Cynthia noted that she saw many new faces among the crowd that had not been involved in other campus projects.
“There are a bunch of students here who aren’t involved in sustainability taking part in sustainability.”
As more students get involved, the ability for UCI to evolve as a Green Campus will grow exponentially.
UCI Dining, a division of Student Affairs, also showed support by donating sustainable food using their line of environmentally friendly utensils, something they have often done in the past for sustainability projects. Jack McManus, the Director of Hospitality and Dining Services, commented on how much he has seen the campus changed:
“I was here the year they opened the campus. I remember when there wasn’t anything here.”
He noted that in the beginning, you could look across the entire campus and see flat land. “I skateboarded here,” he laughed. “To see everything come full circle is great.”
Richard Demerjian, director of the Office of Environmental Planning and Sustainability, was also on site with students helping to plant trees across the campus. Karen Matsuyama, the community outreach coordinator for Toyota, also attended and commented on the energy she felt from the campus.
“When I found out the reason for the replanting, I was very proud,” she said. “The students are passionate, involved and inspirational.”
In addition to the tree planting, participants and speakers also considered habits concerning waste. Kevin weighed in heavily on this issue during his opening speech:
“It’s time for us to rethink the stuff we think as nice, easy conveniences,” Kevin said. “The next time you go to Starbucks, think about where [your trash] will go.”
While there has been a strong response from students and staff to push for a more sustainable campus, green groups urge the rest of the student body to also take measures to reduce personal waste.