A College Famous for its Pines Seeks Tree Certification

Published by Jane Godiner ’23
Bowdoin's Sustainability Office has been working hard to achieve Tree Campus certification from the national Arbor Day Foundation.

The application is due in December, but much has already been accomplished, thanks to the efforts of student employee Maya Chandar Kouba ’23. “For the entire year, that's been my role,” she said. “We've been focusing on events around this and trying to build momentum.” 

To earn Tree Campus status, Bowdoin must meet five benchmarks: submit a budget with tree- and landscape-related expenses (done), form an advisory board (in process), commit to making a tree-care plan (done), create a service-learning project that engages the student body, and celebrate Arbor Day on April 29 (done!). 

On Arbor Day, fifteen students showed up at the Bowdoin Organic Garden to help plant two organic dwarf D'Anjou pear trees. "They were so excited," Associate Director of Sustainable Bowdoin Keisha Payson said. "One student even suggested that we make tree planting part of senior week."

Planting the dwarf pear trees. Photos by Lily Poppen ’22.

  • Student plants one of the two pear trees
  • Smiling tree planting volunteers
  • Two students tamp down soil
  • shovels ready for work!
  • students hold up a tree sign

Becoming a Tree Campus will serve as an official acknowledgment of how much trees bring to the Bowdoin campus and, more broadly, how they support the environment.

"Trees are what makes Bowdoin so special, and why people love coming to campus," Payson said. "Achieving Tree Campus status seems like a meaningful way to raise the dialogue about the importance of trees and the role they play in our culture."

The certification could bring additional benefits like the establishment of an annual lecture related to dendrology, Payson added.

In her efforts to obtain the certificate, Chandar Kouba planned Earth Day and Arbor Day activities, including the tree planting and information tables that offered freebies for the Bowdoin community. (“Stickers are always a huge hit,” she noted.)

Chandar Kouba also helped assemble the new tree advisory board that will include faculty, staff from the grounds department and the sustainability office, students, and a community member. She also organized clean-ups of the Brunswick Commons with help from the College Houses.

Additionally, she curated an art show featuring written and visual art centered around trees and their natural beauty. The work in the exhibit is hanging in the Roux Center for Environmental Studies.

Even without her counterpart, Ely Miller-Wilson ’23, who is studying abroad in Nepal, Chandar Kouba has continued to propel the College forward, bringing it closer to being designated as a Tree Campus.

“We’re going toward one goal,” she said.

“Trees offer so much—there are the obvious things like maple syrup (yes, Bowdoin taps our maple trees and provides syrup to the dining hall!), providing shade on a summer day, and providing habitat for wildlife—but then there are the less obvious but equally important benefits like absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, and helping to relieve stress by connecting us to nature. ”

—Keisha Payson