A handful of nickels may not save the world, but it adds up.
The Staff Environs Committee’s Change for Trees program collects spare change to keep UNM green. The program began three years ago when UNM took pruning shears to the landscaping budget.
“Keeping the campus green is important to us,” said Karen Wentworth, co-chair of the Staff Environs Committee. “As a committee, we were really bothered by how battered the campus looked, and we thought more trees were the answer. There’s a lot of concrete on campus, and we thought that if we could plant more trees and get them to grow, that would at least provide shade.”
The Environs Committee is composed of elected members of the UNM Staff Council. It raises funds for planting trees, bushes and other foliage and works with the University landscaping department to choose and plant the foliage in order to avoid the spread of invasive species, Wentworth said.
The Change for Trees program focuses on planting large, shade-producing trees that can grow up to 60 feet tall.
“Landscaping budgets have been clipped, and clipped, and clipped over the years,” Wentworth said. “You don’t see really fresh flowers on campus anymore because no one has the money to pay for them.”
The Staff Environs Committee change jars are located in the food court of the SUB.
“We are asking people to drop their spare change into one of our change jars and we’ll buy trees,” Wentworth said. “Donations have become the key to keeping our campus green. There just isn’t any money for niceties like plants and trees — we can’t take it out of student fees, and the state doesn’t have any money. There’s just nowhere else it can come from at this point.”
Linda McCormick, co-chair of the Staff Environs Committee, said so far the program has raised more than $4,600.
“It’s a really neat program and the generosity of UNM’s students, staff and faculty is wonderful,” she said. “It’s incredibly rewarding when we can translate their generosity into not just beauty but utility for the university.”
McCormick said the committee has planted flowering pear trees in front of Johnson Center and hawthorn bushes and other foliage near the Mechanical Engineering building.
“It was just a barren concrete desert over by mechanical engineering and we needed to change that,” she said. “However, someone dug up and stole all of the underplanting last April. We had lavender and several other shade-resistant species and someone came in and took them, so we ended up replacing those as well.”
In addition to beautifying the campus, the new trees help reduce the University’s environmental impact, she said.
“Not only do they provide shade but they lower the University’s heat island effect,” she said. “Best of all, they don’t cost too much so we can really make a difference.”
McCormick said it costs about $500 to plant and maintain a tree for its 50-year lifespan. The trees come with a warranty as well.
Greg Molecke, a UNM alumnus and member of the committee, said he wants to see UNM’s trees and green space preserved.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment of UNM,” he said. “I’m a bit of a tree-hugger to begin with, and when I was elected to the Staff Council I knew this was something that I wanted to be a part of.”
Molecke said UNM planning should focus on more green space, not more buildings.
“The biggest issue I see is that there are so many new buildings that have gone up since I was an undergrad,” he said. “Although these new buildings are needed, there were spaces that had quite a few trees that just aren’t there anymore. Besides planting trees, we strongly advocate that any time a tree is cut down we’d like to see a new tree planted to ensure we keep the campus beautiful.”