Trees do more than emit shade

FAMU could lead the state university system in the Green movement, but right now, we’re being environmentally ambivalent.

Part of this problem can be solved very naturally by simply planting trees.

There are many advantages to planting trees and shrubs around campus, but the environmental advantages outweigh all the others.        

FAMU lacks the vegetation that would bring much-needed shade and oxygen to its patrons. With few exceptions, much of the campus remains scorched by the relentless sun.  The areas that are built over pavement, concrete, and hot asphalt need trees the most. According to, shade from trees cools hot streets and parking lots. Temperatures can climb 50-90 degrees above the air temperature, according to the EPA. 

Endless sidewalk paths that hundreds of students take to go to classes are also stripped bare of trees that can provide shade. For students, it can sometimes become extremely uncomfortable to walk long distances in the blazing sun. Instead of being exposed to direct sunlight, students would feel much cooler standing or walking in the shade of trees.   

According to Jacqueline Hightower, an advisor for the FAMU Green Coalition, no efforts have been made to plant more trees on campus for the purpose of providing shade.

According to, carbon dioxide is one of the major elements contributing to the greenhouse effect. Trees trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and make carbohydrates that are used for plant growth. In return oxygen is released back into the atmosphere making our air more pure and healthy for our lungs to breathe.

Leaves can absorb many air pollutants such as carbon dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide and poisonous carbon monoxide. All of these pollutants can cause breathing problems, sinus troubles, nasal congestion and act as an irritant for people with asthma. Trees can absorb carbon dioxide, and other toxins at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year.

This process of releasing oxygen into the atmosphere brings a better quality of life for the students, teachers, and guests visiting the FAMU’s campus.  

This natural air filter comes in handy during peak traffic hours on campus, when lines of idle cars emit toxic gases that pose as a health risk. The addition of trees could greatly reduce this risk.

By putting trees to work the air quality on campus would greatly improve.   

Not only do trees provide nice shade and filter the air, but they also reduce runoff and erosion from torrential rainfall during afternoon and evening thunderstorms, something Florida is notorious for.       

Flooding is a major concern for FAMU’s campus. With its numerous hills, excess runoff can become a major problem due to lack of trees and vegetation that can absorb the force of rain. The USDA reports that 100 mature trees can reduce runoff from rainfall by up to 100,000 gallons. This helps to protect buildings from damaging floodwaters, strong winds, and even hail.

Trees also prevent busy pathways from being submerged in water.

In the case of severe thunderstorms the trees can also save lives by lowering the risk of lightning strikes. Lightening strikes in general are a rare occurrence, although the risk is still present. And FAMU’s location at the highest elevation in the city leaves students at risk of being struck.

In addition to the environmental benefits that planting trees would bring, FAMU could also reduce its energy usage. The Arbor Day Foundation says that the overall effect of the shade created by planting a healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners running 20 hours a day. 

During the winter trees act as windbreaks, preventing cold chills from entering the buildings; this would help FAMU save up to 25 percent on heating costs. 

When university president James Ammons assumed office he devoted himself to making FAMU a sustainable, green campus. Thereafter, FAMU Environment and Sustainability Council was established in Jan. 2008. The FAMU ESC works closely with the FAMU Green Coalition and the Environmental Student Organization. But to date, no real efforts are visible to the average student. “It would be interesting to know what kinds of sustainable projects have been put forth by this council since it was established,” Hightower said of the FAMU ESC.

The university could gain from the intimate contact with nature trees will surely bring. They will help us appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us. Trees would provide a balance between the urban environment surrounding the campus and natural harmony of the rest of the city.   

             Planting trees could be a huge step towards creating an environmentally friendly FAMU. So, to tree or not      to tree, is the question FAMU administrators must ask themselves in an effort to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly university.