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Deep-rooted green efforts gain campus its third straight Tree Campus USA recognition

Jacksonville University has gained official 2017 Tree Campus USA recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation, the third year in a row it has been singled out for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

Only 344 campuses – fewer than 10 percent of all public and private U.S. colleges – meet the requirements for the recognition. Just 15 campuses have the designation in Florida, and only a few of those are private universities.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

Tree Campus USA, an Arbor Day Foundation program, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals.

JU, with its majestic oak canopy and an inviting natural setting, achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project.

On campus, JU annually celebrates National Arbor Day – which falls on April 27 this year – with students planting trees and even taking selfies of themselves with their favorite trees. Its Tree Advisory Committee continues to work to maintain the campus’ cloak of trees, and has launched a tree inventory to better track changes over time and ensure necessary species diversity.

“JU is a perfect example of a Tree Campus USA,” said Dr. Ashley Johnson, Assistant Professor of Geography and the Environment in the College of Arts and Sciences, who led efforts for JU’s initial Tree Campus USA recognition. “The beautiful tree canopy provides a living classroom for our students.”

In her congratulatory letter to the University, Arbor Day Foundation Program Coordinator Lauren Weyers praised JU’s entire campus community for its sustained commitment to environmental stewardship.

“If ever there was a time for trees, now is that time. Communities worldwide are facing issues with air quality, water resources, personal health and well-being, and energy use,” she wrote. “Jacksonville University is stepping up to do its part. As a result of your commitment to effective urban forest management, you are helping to provide a solution to these global challenges.”

The Tree Campus USA initiative is part of JU’s overall Healthy Campus program, which cultivates an environment at JU of health and wellness for students, faculty, staff and alumni, organizing all that the University offers under one umbrella to make it easier for healthy habits to become second nature, as a mindset and as a culture.

Healthy Campus has four pillars: Fitness & Wellness, Academics, Social Responsibility and Environmental Health. They are designed to elevate health awareness, provide knowledge and create the means by which the campus community can stay healthy.

The University recently became the first private higher education institution in Florida to commit to the goals of the American College Health Association’s “Healthy Campus Pledge” and is now part of an exclusive network of official Healthy Campus 2020 Partners.

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $48 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available at www.arborday.org/TreeCampusUSA.