The University of Houston has been recognized as a Tree Campus USA institution by the Arbor Day Foundation, marking the fourth consecutive year UH has earned the distinction.
Universities and colleges across the country can apply for the designation, which recognizes schools for being active stewards of the natural landscape of their campuses.
“Achieving this certification affirms our commitment to ensure that tree preservation continues and tree protection is at the center of grounds maintenance and care,” said Michael Mendoza, sustainability manager for the UH Office of Sustainability. “The trees at UH are an integral part of the campus’ identity and a valuable natural resource.”
UH is one of 32 schools in Texas and 368 nationwide this year to earn the Tree Campus USA distinction, which is not awarded unless an institution meets five standards.
Mendoza said the Tree Campus USA certification affords the University the opportunity to create discussions around tree protection and tree replacement in the face of rapid campus growth, especially with new construction and renovations.
He hopes outdoor spaces surrounding buildings under construction are considered an integral part of those projects, since those areas help create the aesthetic and “feel” of the campus.
“We hope to grow canopy coverage and expand campus forested areas to provide a park-like setting for everyone to enjoy,” he said. “Not only for the shade, as Houston can get very warm in the summer, but also for the peace and calm that outdoor experiences provide. We all can use a little more peace and calm.”
Last year, Facilities Services conducted a tree survey, which found there are more than 3,350 trees on campus.
“We estimate the total is much higher than that, but for now we have surveyed and recorded 3,350 trees,” said Mendoza, who helped analyze the survey results.
Apart from a tree care plan that the Office of Sustainability created in 2015, the department also advocates for design guidelines and campus standards that favor sustainable practices. Those practices focus not just on beautification, but also on low-impact development for storm water management, maintaining green edges of campus and stewardship of the University’s natural resources.
As part of the campus tree-preservation efforts, the Office of Sustainability holds an Arbor Day observance every November, during which volunteers participate in tree-planting activities.“We’re excited about what is happening and what is to come for UH,” Mendoza said. “We encourage anyone interested in participating to check in with the Office of Sustainability in November so that together we can join the rest of Texas to observe Arbor Day and keep preserving trees.”