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Growing number of trees bring more than environmental benefits to CLC campus

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Aug 24, 2021

Most people understand trees are important to have in our world. At College of Lake County (CLC), an even deeper dive into the positive impact trees bring goes into the planting of them on campus.

In 2018, CLC was first named a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation, recognizing the college’s efforts to manage and expand its tree population. Now CLC renews its Tree Campus certification every year.

Arbor Day tree plantingPlanting trees around campus helps in creating a welcoming, healthy environment. This summer, 27 new trees were planted on campus.

“It’s something that’s been needed for a while,” said David Husemoller, CLC sustainability manager. “We want to drive beautification of the campus and highlight the environmental benefits of trees.”

Trees play an important role in climate change, being able to pull carbon dioxide out of the air and sink it into the ground. Home to more than 1,000 trees, CLC plants trees to not only help the environment, but also the students and staff.

“Along with aesthetics, trees have psychological benefits and make us feel better,” Husemoller said.

Having green spaces and more trees on campus, Husemoller said, helps students perform better. They can help to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and lower breathing and heart rate which improves student focus. This directly relates to student success.

“We don’t always associate trees with student health and success,” Husemoller said. “It doesn’t seem direct and can’t be measured with a test score.”

Another way the trees improve the quality of the campus is what they do to the temperature of the air around campus. They provide shade, which creates cooler outdoor spaces that are more comfortable to be in, but they also cool the air around them by simply being there.

Similar to how humans use perspiration to cool off their bodies, trees use a process called transpiration. Through this process, water released from the tree turns to vapor, cooling the air around it.

A good example of how helpful this can be on campus is the temperature in the parking lots. Trees around the edges can provide shade for cars, but with more trees, the temperature of the parking lot decreases.

Cars will be cooler, but cooler air around campus provides positive health benefits. Because of this, trees are typically planted in strategic locations like near benches or tables.

When planting, Husemoller says they elect to go for native species to prevent any damage done to the ecosystem.

“Native oak trees could host over a hundred of species of insects, and those insects could feed the birds,” Husemoller said. “An English oak, which isn’t native, could host only a few species, and that would make birds hunt farther away to feed their young with enough insects. Trees and insects have all evolved together, and nonnative trees can hurt the ecosystem.”

CLC’s long-term goal is to double the number of trees on campus, though it’s something that needs to be done incrementally because of the care each tree needs after planting to ensure it’s healthy and grows well.

“If we planted 100 trees, we wouldn’t have the staff and resources to nurture them,” Husemoller said. “We are going to do what we can successfully manage.”

Trees are planted on campus every year in April as a celebration of Arbor Day and Earth Week. The trees are planted by volunteers, many of whom are students, and it gives them a chance to learn about the trees simultaneously.

“Our role as an educational institution is to teach students,” Husemoller said. “If we hired an outside company to plant them all, the students would be missing out on the experience.”

Trees have also become valuable assets for the college. In a survey of all the trees on campus conducted by Bartlett Tree Experts, CLC’s trees are worth around $2.3 million, a number that grows as the trees do in size.

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.