Arbor Day Foundation Honors Hollins with 2017 Tree Campus USA® Recognition

Tree Campus USA LogoHollins University was honored with 2017 Tree Campus USA® recognition by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to effective urban forest management.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

Tree Campus USA, an Arbor Day Foundation program, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  The Tree Campus USA program honors colleges and universities for effective campus forest management and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Hollins University achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance and student service-learning project. Currently there are 344 campuses across the United States with this recognition.

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $48 million in campus forest management last year.

Hollins Featured in Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges

Hollins University is one of the nation’s 375 most environmentally responsible colleges, according to the 2017 edition of The Princeton Review Guide to 375 Green Colleges.

Schools were chosen for the seventh annual edition of The Princeton Review’s “green guide” based on data from the company’s 2016-17 survey of hundreds of four-year colleges concerning the schools’ commitment to the environment and sustainability.

“We strongly recommend Hollins and the other colleges in this guide to the many environmentally minded students who seek to study and live at green colleges,” said Princeton Review Vice President/Publisher Robert Franek.

In an effort to model sustainable practices, Hollins created an Environmental Advisory Board in 2006 composed of students, faculty, staff, and trustees to provide the university president with advice and leadership regarding identification, assessment, creation, and implementation of environmental planning and policies for the university. The following year, Hollins became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents Climate Agreement, documented its greenhouse gas emissions, and developed a plan in 2009 for reducing campus carbon emissions. As part of this commitment, an initial benchmark was set to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 15% by the end of the 2013-14 academic year.  Hollins subsequently reduced its carbon footprint by 19%, one year ahead of schedule.The dramatic reduction in emissions came primarily from the university’s 8.8% decrease in electricity consumption. The university’s commitment to renewable energy initiatives, including the purchase of landfill gas, is further offsetting its carbon footprint.

Hollins has coordinated projects to promote sustainable practices, including campus-wide conservation guidelines and a recycling program; installing geothermal wells with new construction; and establishing a Green Revolving Fund to implement additional cost-effective energy conservation projects. Hollins also maintains growing academic programs in environmental studies and environmental science. In 2016, the university received the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Campus USA recognition for the institution’s commitment to efficient urban forest management.


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Arbor Day Foundation Honors Hollins with 2016 Tree Campus USA® Recognition

Hollins University has received the Arbor Day Foundation’s 2016 Tree Campus USA® recognition for the institution’s commitment to efficient urban forest management.

“Students are eager to volunteer in their communities and become better stewards of the environment,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Participating in Tree Campus USA sets a fine example for other colleges and universities, while helping to create a healthier planet for us all.”

Tree Campus USA is a national program created in 2008 by the Arbor Day Foundation to honor colleges and universities for effective campus forest supervision and for engaging staff and students in conservation goals. Hollins achieved the title by meeting Tree Campus USA’s five standards, which include maintaining a tree advisory committee; developing a campus tree-care plan; dedicating annual expenditures for its campus tree program; holding an Arbor Day observance; and conducting a student service-learning project. Currently there are 296 campuses across the United States with this recognition.

Anna Copplestone, a coordinator in the information technology department at Hollins, helped spearhead the Tree Campus USA designation. “Our campus has always appreciated the natural beauty of its trees, but through this project, many people came together to demonstrate measurable and significant ways in which they physically benefit our environment. Understanding how we interact with our natural surroundings, even passively, is how we come to value and protect them. Hollins has shown its commitment to long-term sustainability efforts, and I hope Hollins continues to earn Tree Campus USA recognition in the years to come.”

Professor of French Annette Sampon-Nicolas, who chairs Hollins’ Environmental Advisory Board, added, “I am thrilled that Hollins is part of the Tree Campus USA program, and so grateful to Anna Copplestone for her dedication and passion for trees. She made it happen. Hollins’ beautiful trees will continue to be well managed, and the Hollins community is committed to fostering urban forests beyond our campus borders.”

Hollins will officially celebrate the designation during its Arbor Day observance on April 28. Highlights will include the placing of the Tree Campus USA plaque on campus, a tree planting, and a screening of the documentary, City of Trees.

The Garden Club of Virginia extended its congratulations to Hollins in this letter to President Nancy Gray.

The Arbor Day Foundation has helped campuses throughout the country plant thousands of trees, and Tree Campus USA colleges and universities invested more than $46.7 million in campus forest management last year. More information about the program is available here.



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Students Give Voice to Environmental Concerns at VA Power Dialog

Hollins University students immersed themselves in learning about the obstacles Virginia faces in reducing CO2 emissions during the VA Power Dialog on April 8.

Hollins was among the twelve Virginia colleges and universities that participated in the event, which took place at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond.

Nine students from Associate Professor of Economics Pablo Hernandez’s Economics and the Environment course engaged in conversation and contributed to an interactive poster session. Hernandez is part of the fifteen-member team that planned the VA Power Dialog, part of a larger national effort aimed at helping college students from across the U.S. learn of individual state challenges in complying with the proposed federal Clean Power Plan.

“Several of us used this time to convey that climate change is the biggest issue in our lifetimes,” said Diana Kevorkian ’16. “The Power Dialog is an excellent way for the voice of young adults to be heard. It is very important for us to continue the conversation if policy regarding sustainability is going to change.”

Kevorkian was dismayed to learn of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s difficulty in “bridging the gap between politics and scientific research. One of the struggles is gaining legislative agreement on methods of sustainability that are both feasible and economical.” However, she added she was impressed by the initiatives the Governor’s Office is attempting to put into place. “Angela Navarro [the commonwealth’s deputy secretary of natural resources] pointed out that change must happen and it is happening, such as with a motion to increase solar energy in Virginia.”

Husnia Alokozai ’16 said she was “particularly encouraged to learn more about the possibility of an energy economy through which supply meets demand. At the same same time, production and consumption activities are shifted toward a low-carbon emission cycle using technologies and alternative energy sources and relying on effective net energy metering.”

The enthusiastic involvement of so many of the commonwealth’s colleges and universities in the VA Power Dialog is a catalyst for students such as Lan Nguyen ’18. She said it’s motivated her “to further my education concerning environmental issues and become more active in present and future climate movements.

“The Power Dialog provides a model for colleges such as Hollins to expand the momentum in communicating the science behind climate change and the importance of strengthening networks among colleges at the state and national level.”



Hollins to Join Other Virginia Colleges for VA Power Dialog

Hollins University is one of twelve Virginia colleges and universities taking part in the VA Power Dialog on Friday, April 8, at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond.

During the dialog, students from across the commonwealth will engage with state regulators, officials, and peers. They will focus on finding ways in which Virginia can help the United States meet the commitment it made at the Paris climate talks to reduce global warming emissions thirty percent by the year 2030.

Associate Professor of Economics Pablo Hernandez will bring students from his class, Economics and the Environment, to participate in conversation and contribute to an interactive poster session.

Joining Hollins at this event will be students from James Madison University, Lynchburg College, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, University of Richmond, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, and William and Mary.

Hollins Observes Campus Sustainability Month

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has designated October as Campus Sustainability Month, and Hollins University’s Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) is sponsoring several events throughout the month in celebration:

Film Screening: Battle for the Barriers
Wednesday, October 14, 7:30 p.m.
Room 119, Richard Wetherill Visual Arts Center
This documentary examines the efforts to save the barrier lands that protect the shoreline and explores the role of Delaware congressman Tom Evans in this initiative. Now retired, Evans helped write the Coastal Barriers Act of 1982, “the most important environmental law that nobody has ever heard of.”


Thursday, October 15 – Thursday, October 29

During this two-week competition, students can create or join a team and then tackle one of the following challenges: Water Conservation, Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Food Options, Alternative Transportation, Trash Reduction, Civic Engagement, or Connect with Earth. Participating teams can collect points to be eligible to win prizes, and the winning team receives a pizza party courtesy of Hollins. EcoChallenge proves that small actions add up to real change – students can register to participate here.

Film Screening: The Future of Food
Friday, October 16, 5:30 p.m.
Moody Dining Hall

Deborah Koons Garcia’s documentary “distills the complex technology and consumer issues surrounding major changes in the food system today – genetically engineered foods, patenting, and the corporatization of food – into terms the average person can understand. It empowers consumers to realize the consequences of their food choices on our future.”

Carvins Cove Trail Clean-Up
Date TBA

The campus group Students for Environmental Action is leading a clean-up of the trail to Carvins Cove. Representatives from the Clean Water Conservancy will be present to give a brief talk on the additional steps Hollins can take to make its carbon footprint smaller.




Jane Goodall Tells a Hollins Audience Why She Still Has Hope for Our Planet

She may have turned 81 earlier this month, but Jane Goodall still spends 300 days a year traveling the world on a mission to educate people of all ages about Earth’s environmental crises and the many threats to humans and animals alike.

“I’m finding young people who don’t have much hope for the future, who have become apathetic, depressed, and angry. They say, ‘You older generations have compromised our future and there’s nothing we can do about it.’

“Maybe its wishful thinking, some biologists will tell you it’s too late to change the way things are going, we just have to adapt to a world that’s getting worse and worse. But I think there’s a window of time where we can bring about change.”

The noted primatologist and conservationist brought her message of hope to Hollins University on April 20 and spoke before an audience that filled both the Hollins Theatre and duPont Chapel, where her address was simulcast. The event was sponsored by the university’s Distinguished Speakers Fund.

Goodall began her one-hour-and-twelve-minute address with captivating stories of growing up in London during World War II and her mother’s invaluable role in “the making of a little scientist: curiosity, deciding to find out for yourself, asking questions, learning patience. A different type of mother might have crushed that. I might not be standing here today. She supported my love of animals throughout my childhood, and she helped me find books about animals because she thought it would help me to learn quicker.”

Two books in particular had a profound impact on Goodall: Doctor Doolittle (“The first book I actually owned. I still have it. I pretended to my friends that I could actually understand the birds, the cats, the dogs. I interpreted their sounds.”) and Tarzan of the Apes, which “began my dream. I would grow up, go to Africa, live with animals, and write books about them. Everybody laughed at me – I was just a girl. Those careers, those adventures, were for boys. But my mother supported this dream. What she said to me is what I say to young people around the world, whether they are rich or poor, whichever country they live in: If you have a dream, she said, you must be prepared to work very hard. You must take advantage of opportunity. You must never give up.”

When she was 23, Goodall’s dream began coming to fruition. She got a job in Nairobi, Kenya, and subsequently met the famed anthropologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey. She impressed Leakey with her extensive knowledge of animals in Africa and convinced him she was the person he was seeking to live with and study the chimpanzee in what is now Tanzania. He secured funding to support six months of research, but as Goodall explained, there was another obstacle to overcome.

“Tanzania was still part of the British Empire, and British authorities were not prepared to give permission to this young girl to go out into this potentially dangerous forest with potentially dangerous animals. Nobody really knew anything about chimpanzees except they’re much stronger than us. Leakey never gave up and in the end the authorities said, ‘She can come, but she has to have a companion.’ Who came with me? That same amazing mother.”

At that time, it was widely thought that only humans made and used tools. Goodall’s observation that chimpanzees were also proficient with tools caught the attention of the National Geographic Society, which offered to continue funding her research. This set the stage for decades of ground-breaking work in studying chimpanzees’ complex social structure, research that earned her worldwide acclaim.

Goodall said she became an environmental activist after attending a conference in Chicago in the mid-80s with other chimpanzee researchers. “We had a session on conservation, which was shocking. All across Africa, chimpanzees were losing their habitats, their numbers were plummeting, forests were being destroyed. Since October 1986 I haven’t been more than three weeks consecutively in any one place.” She dedicated herself to “learning more and more about all these terrifying things we are doing to the planet. Many people don’t know. We don’t know the extent to which we are polluting this planet. We don’t know the extent to which industrial, agricultural, and household chemicals are being washed down into the streams and rivers and finally ending up in the oceans. We don’t realize the extent of human population growth.”

Even though she wonders, “How is it that the most intellectual creature that has ever walked on the planet is destroying its only home?”, Goodall offered five reasons why she still believes the challenges Earth faces can be addressed:

  • Roots & Shoots. This youth program, which Goodall launched in Tanzania in 1991, began with 12 students from nine different high schools. Today, Roots & Shoots is in 113 countries and consists of almost 100,000 groups encompassing pre-schoolers to university students. Their only mandate is to pursue projects that help people, animals, the environment, or any combination of the three. “From the beginning, Roots & Shoots groups have decided for themselves what to do,” Goodall explained. “These young people have the most amazing ideas. Once they know the problems and we empower them to take action, they roll up their sleeves and get out there. There are hundreds of problems in the world today, and all the places I go, there are groups of children wanting to solve them.”
  • The Human Brain. “We’ve done some pretty bad things with our brain, but we shouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. You know what we’re capable of doing,” Goodall said, citing breakthroughs in technology. “The problem, I think, is a disconnect between the human brain and the human heart. That can lead to serious problems. I truly believe that only when head and heart live in harmony can we reach our true human potential. And our potential is huge.”
  • Nature’s Resilience. “We can utterly destroy a place. But with a lot of hard work, it can be restored.” Goodall described the transformation that occurred in the region surrounding Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park. “The land around Gombe was bare hills. It was clear there were more people living there than the land could support. The land was over-farmed and infertile. The people were struggling to survive.” Fifteen years after introducing a community-centered conservation program, Goodall said those hills were green once again, and the chimpanzees native to the area had three times more forest for their habitat than when the project began.
  • Social Media. “I was in a climate march in New York last September with 400,000 people,” Goodall recalled. “Only 100,000 were expected. All around me were people with their iPads, iPhones. They were on Twitter and Facebook and they were telling their friends to come. And you could see them coming. Ten years ago, we might get a couple of hundred people coming to a march or demonstration or signing a petition. But now, you have hundreds of thousands by using social media. Of course it can be used for bad ends, but it’s also an incredibly powerful tool to make the world a better place, and it’s increasingly being used that way.”
  • “The Indomitable Human Spirit.” “You matter as an individual. You can make a difference. You can succeed even when it appears fate is against you,” Goodall implored. “Every single one of us in this room has this magical potential within us. We have to learn to let it free, let it fly, have faith in it, and not give up. When that starts to happen, the world will change.”

For more information about Goodall’s work and the Jane Goodall Institute, visit

Hollins Enters Into Cooperative Agreement to Pave the Way for Solar Energy on Campus

Hollins University and 14 other private nonprofit colleges in Virginia will be developing comprehensive plans to implement solar power, thanks to more than $807,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative.

Sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia (CICV), the three-year program will help Hollins and the other colleges navigate the complex legal, regulatory, and technical challenges associated with installing solar systems, leverage group purchasing power to achieve price reductions for hardware and installation services, and create a learning network accessible by other organizations considering solar power. Consulting services will be provided to CICV by Optony, Inc., a global consulting firm focused on solar energy.

“CICV member colleges are interested in sustainability and reducing their carbon footprints,” said CICV President Robert Lambeth, who serves as principal investigator for the program. “Our recent success with a collaboration that now provides five of our colleges [including Hollins] with electricity generated from landfill gas provided the impetus for expanding our efforts to solar power.

“The SunShot Initiative presents an opportunity to work as a team to effectively make progress in an area that is challenging when working individually, particularly for our smaller schools that may be limited in the resources they can commit to installing solar.”

The funding is a landmark achievement for CICV, as it is the first time the organization has sought federal funds to further its mission of collaboration among its members.

“SunShot is CICV’s first attempt at securing federal money to help our members meet their sustainability goals,” said Director of Business Operations Anita Girelli. “We have had success with so many collaborative projects; it seemed natural to continue those efforts in an area that is of such importance to our members, their communities, and the environment.”

The ultimate goal is to create and implement a replicable plan for participating institutions to deploy solar electricity within five years. This project has the potential to substantially increase the total amount of solar power now produced within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Drawing on expertise from select faculty and staff at participating colleges and universities, the project will eliminate duplication of effort and create a streamlined process for these institutions to plan for, acquire, and implement solar energy systems on their campuses. Students at participating schools will contribute their time and effort to the program.

“Involving students in the process from start to finish will provide educational opportunities and exposure to innovative and current topics – knowledge we hope will inspire them to continue sustainability efforts long after their college years,” said Girelli.

“While solar energy is not their primary mission, our member colleges are proud to be good stewards of the earth and positive role models for their students and communities,” said Lambeth. “Many [including Hollins] are signatories to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment and are committed to becoming climate neutral. Solar energy is one way to make progress toward those goals.”

Along with Hollins, the colleges involved in the collaborative initiative are Appalachian School of Law, Bridgewater College, Eastern Mennonite University, Emory & Henry College, Ferrum College, Hampton University, Lynchburg College, Mary Baldwin College, Marymount University, Randolph College, Roanoke College, Shenandoah University, Virginia Union University, and Washington & Lee University.

Hollins Featured in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges

2011greenHollins University is one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the United States and Canada, according to the second annual edition of The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Colleges: 2011 Edition.

Created by The Princeton Review in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the guidebook profiles institutions of higher learning that demonstrate a notable commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation. The Princeton Review chose the schools for this guide based on a survey of administrators at hundreds of colleges that the company polled in 2010 about their school’s sustainability initiatives.

Released today in conjunction with the 41st anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, the book includes facts, statistics, and write-ups reporting on each school’s environmentally related policies, practices, and academic offerings. The free guide can be downloaded at

“College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues,” said The Princeton Review’s Robert Franek. “Together with the USGBC, we are pleased to make this free resource available to all students seeking to attend colleges that practice, teach, and support environmentally responsible choices. We highly recommend the colleges in this book.”

Hollins’ recognition in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges comes as the university installs the first solar panels on campus. The panels will directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity, reducing the amount of non-green energy Hollins must purchase. The project is made possible by a $30,000 grant from a new initiative established by The Dominion Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Richmond-based Dominion Resources, one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy.

Hollins Makes Significant Strides in Reducing Its Carbon Footprint

footprintIn 2007, Hollins University President Nancy Gray joined hundreds of other college presidents from across the country in signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, pledging to lessen and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions on campus. In compliance, Hollins developed a Strategic Plan for Carbon Reduction, a plan that is generating positive results.

An analysis prepared by Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Renee Godard shows Hollins reduced its carbon footprint by 9% in 2010-2011, far exceeding the target of 6% for the year.

“This achievement is due in part to an improvement in the carbon load associated with the electricity we purchase,” Gray explained. “But much of the credit goes to our initiatives, individually and campus-wide, toward lowering electricity consumption. Simple habits, such as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, unplugging electrical equipment when not in use, and turning down heating and cooling units, are having a tremendous impact.”

Gray added that Hollins has also made progress in decreasing the amount of animal agriculture and landfill waste the university generates.

“I congratulate our students, faculty and staff on their continuing dedication and effort in addressing the challenges of climate change, and in establishing Hollins as a role model for the community at large in this endeavor,” Gray said. “They are truly making a difference.”