In their final days as Hamilton students, more than 200 members of the Class of 2022 planted nearly 500 trees in an effort to combat climate change.

Student groups arrived at the tracts of land beyond the Withiam and Goodfriend Athletics Fields, near the former golf course. They were able to pick from more than a dozen tree species, which were selected because they are native to central New York and are more likely to tolerate the anticipated climate change in the region.

From there, students grabbed a tree tube, a stake, a piece of black plastic, four staples, a shovel, a post pounder, and a bug net before digging their hole and planting their tree. Faculty, staff, and Hamilton Sustainability Coordinators provided direction for seniors on how to plant the trees to ensure their survival and growth.

Brian Hansen, Hamilton’s director of Environmental Protection, Safety, and Sustainability, explained that the event was just one part of Hamilton’s reforestation efforts to help the College achieve carbon neutrality by 2030, 20 years earlier than its initial target of 2050. Campus reforestation research and projects date back nearly 15 years and each time, they have refined the process with different tactics.

“We are a community that learns by doing, and this long-term process has been researched and refined over the years thanks to faculty, student, and staff involvement and their commitment to our efforts,” he said. 

While many students who planted trees were motivated to participate in order to be part of Hamilton’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality, others like Alexia Assimakopoulos ’22 used it as a chance to explore something new. 

“I wanted to do something I had never done before in my last few days here, and this gave me the chance to leave a mark on Hamilton,” the sociology major said. 

Once students planted and secured the trees, they wrote their names on name tags that were then attached to the trees. 

“In an ideal world, we hope we can keep the name tags with the trees as they grow and mature,” Hansen noted. “That way, when the Class of 2022 returns for Reunions at some point, they can find their trees and realize the difference they made.” 

Hamilton’s sustainability efforts are made possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of many people across the College community. In addition to Hansen, those involved in organizing this event included Environmental Health and Safety Specialist Sara Soika, Director of Student Activities Noelle Juliano, Tommy Keith ’22, Associate Professor of Biology Andrea Townsend, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Strong, Assistant Professor of Biology Peter Guiden, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Heather Kroop, Natural Resources Program Manager Don Croft, and Grounds and Fleet Operations Manager Mike Jasper and the rest of the Grounds crew.

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