Let's face it, as far as most college students are concerned, the quality of life on campus is as important as the education the school has to offer. The way the campus looks - whether it's clean and green - can play as big a part in how students feel about campus life as the school's extra-curriculars, social life and athletics.
Adding touches of green to your school's campus does more than improve the aesthetic beauty of the environment. It also helps offset your school's carbon emissions. Green Hands USA can help you organize a Campus Green Up to ensure that your college's campus is looking its best - and students are doing their part for the rest of the world - while having fun.
What Does It Take?
All you have to do is round up a group of friends and fellow students for an hour or two. First you tidy up the litter from the high traffic areas on campus-central quads, student center, outside dorms, etc-and then you pick one area that really needs some trees and flowers to spruce things up -- and start digging.
You can make your green up an even more fun social gathering by getting the volunteers together for a meal, a drink (if your volunteers are 21!), or a Frisbee competition (as long as it's far away from the new plantings).
Step 1. Get permission - and help -- from school officials.
Meet with your college's administration to get the OK for your green up- and to see what kind of plantings would work best. School officials and the groundskeepers probably have a good idea about the kinds of plants would work best - and the locations on campus that will keep them from being trampled by students on their way to class.
You'll also need to talk with officials about whether there is someone at the school who can take responsibility for watering the plants once your green up is done. If not, you will have to arrange for volunteers to water them on a regular basis (perhaps you could get in touch with an environmental or climate-oriented school group and team up with them?). New plants need to be watered more frequently than mature ones.
Step 2. Set the date
Timing is critical for the success of all collegiate events, but especially for campus green ups. In order to make your green up as successful as possible, bear in mind:
Saturday and Sunday may give you the highest turnout as few classes are scheduled on the weekend.
Don't start too early, though-you know how your fellow students do enjoy sleeping in on the weekend!
The best time for a green up is usually spring or fall-you want to plan your event around a time that's neither too hot nor too cold, and the soil is rich and moist.
Step 3. Recruit Volunteers
Finding volunteers can be the hardest part of any event - and it is the key to success. Green Hands USA can help!
Call upon your network of friends-it'll make the event more fun for all of you to have your buddies pitching in. If you're involved in any other groups or organizations on campus, try to tap into those communities for support - especially the Environmental groups. Send emails to your groups' listservs.
Green Hands can also help you gather volunteers, too. Submit the details about your Campus Green Up on the event form.
Your event will be featured on the Green Hands USA web site for all to see - and sign up for!
And Green Hands USA will also email all volunteers in your area who have signed up on the site to let them know about your event - then they can lend their hands to make your project a success.
Step 4. Get Publicity
Send out a press release to local media -- and especially your campus paper and radio station -- to publicize the event.
Here, too, Green Hands USA will help you. In addition to publicizing the event on the web site, we'll give you additional tools.
PRESS RELEASE: Just customize the Press Release template and send it to local newspapers, magazines, radio stations, web sites.
FLIERS: Customize the template flier and post it all over campus. Put the flier up everywhere you can think of-in the student center, in the dorms, on bulletin boards. Some colleges will even let you chalk or post fliers on the sidewalk (make sure you know your school's policy on publicity before trying this).
You can also extend your effort to the surrounding community-put up fliers in local shops, cafes, bookstores-the effort to green your campus doesn't have to be limited to college students.
Step 5. Tools and Supplies You'll Need
The event leader should bring:
Sign-up Sheets and clipboards - helpful in case of emergency
First-aid Kits for cuts and scratches
Let your volunteers know they'll need to bring:
recyclable garbage bags
gardening tools, large and small shovels, rake, etc.
trees, plants, and flowers (see below)
sunscreen, hats, sunglasses
clothes that can get dirty.
Where to Get Supplies
Ask volunteers to bring as many items as possible from home - or gather them from residents in the community. Include this information in your description of your event on Green Hands USA and in later updates to volunteers about your event.
Useful Website resources for supplies:
Biodegradable gloves, recyclable garbage bags:
Moneysaver Tip: To save money, ask local hardware and grocery stores to donate many of these supplies or help underwrite the costs. They are often happy to be associated with good, green events - especially if you add their names as sponsors to your publicity efforts.
Step 6. Pick the Right Plants for the Site
Planting tress and flowers isn't rocket science - but it does help to get a little advice to make sure the plants will survive and thrive.
There may be a professor in the Botany or Environmental Studies departments at your school who can provide advice on what sort of plant life would be ideal for your campus.
If your campus has a landscaping department, you may also need to get advice and the OK from them on what to plant where.
Go to nurseries in the area (or even contact your city's arborist -check out this handy arborist database) - and ask for advice. The nursery owners and staff will be happy to give guidance and planting tips - they may even donate some or all of the plants you'll need.
Choose plants that are best for your geographical zone and soil type.
Pick perennials - flowers that come back and bloom year after year - and keep your campus green and colorful for years to come. Flowering annuals only last a season.
Step 7. Planting Tips for Trees and Flowers
Now you're ready to dig in and beautify! Here are some basic tips to keep in mind:
How to Plant Trees
Dig your hole a couple of inches deeper than the root ball (the bottom wrapped part of the tree that contains the roots) and twice as wide.
If the soil is hard, break it up a bit with a shovel or a hoe
If the root ball is wrapped in burlap, simply untie it and leave it at the bottom of the hole-the burlap will disintegrate into organic matter over time).
If necessary, knock away the "shoulders" - the soil surrounding the roots at the top and sides - so the roots can spread apart easily once they are in the ground.
Place the tree in your hole, and fill in the area around the root ball with soil, making sure that there are no air pockets.
Build the soil up in a mound around the tree's trunk, slightly taller than the surrounding earth. This way, when you water the plant and soil washes away, there will be plenty of extra soil to cover the vulnerable roots.
Water your tree for quite a while as soon as you're done planting to thoroughly drench the roots and help it settle in to its new home!
How to Plant Flowers
Dig a hole slightly larger than the diameter of the root ball or the pot the flower is in.
Drop the flower in the hole so the roots are slightly below the ground level. Untangle the roots gently so they can spread and grow in the soil.
Cover the roots completely with soil, building the soil up into a small mound around the flower's stem that is a little higher than the ground, patting the earth firmly to make sure the plant won't fall over.
Water your flower with a gentle spray so as not to wash away the surrounding dirt.
Step 8. Follow Up with a Watering Plan
If your college does not have someone who can handle the daily watering that new plants need, arrange for a volunteer to take on the water duty. New plants need lots of water - daily for the first week or so -especially if the weather gets hot and there is no rain. You want to make sure that your flowers and trees continue blooming for years to come!
Step 9. Time to Party!
Bring water and snacks for the volunteers to keep them happy and hydrated as they dig and plant. In addition, you might want to plan a little party afterwards to celebrate - right on campus so you can admire the new improved grounds - or at a nearby dorm room, common space, or local bar or restaurant.
Organizing a campus green up is a great way to socialize, build community, spread a green message, and help the planet. So what are you waiting for? Get greening already!