We don’t have to wait for April showers to see flowers here at Georgetown.
An attractive campus can create a positive impression on prospective students and boost morale for current ones. But Georgetown needs to continue eco-friendly efforts to provide the flowers that color campus and improve the sustainability of its landscaping in general.
With this year’s unusually warm weather, students, staff and visitors are enjoying the bulbs that were planted in the fall earlier than usual. The sudden appearance of hundreds of flowers in the most visible locations on campus is almost enough to make one believe in a Georgetown flower endowment. And while flowers may seem trivial, Georgetown’s flora offers a valuable boost to campus happiness — as long as we plant and maintain it responsibly.
The university already engages in some innovative sustainability practices. In addition to composting all organic yard waste, our campus uses a system to irrigate plants that incorporates a real-time weather monitoring system. This centralized technology uses current climate patterns to determine exactly how much water plants need and then waters them in the mornings and evenings when the smallest amount will evaporate.
In 2003, Georgetown implemented an integrated pest management system that uses disease-resistant plants and organic fertilizers to minimize pesticide use. The development policies of the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design-certified Rafik B. Hariri Building and the soon-to-be-opened Regents Hall have also emphasized choosing local or drought-resistant plants when possible. Planting blossoms that require less water means that less is needed to maintain campus beauty. In addition to minimizing fertilizer use, local flowers reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by eliminating the need to transport the plants.
But more can be done to boost sustainability. While the university grounds feature many perennials, many of Georgetown’s flowers are annuals that must be planted anew each spring. Currently, the bulbs are either disposed of or distributed to interested community members instead of preserved for the following season.
Rather than wasting unwanted flowers, the university should consider saving them for the spring. The native plant policies in place at the Hariri and Regents buildings should also be implemented across campus.
After a gray Washington winter, the flowers and plants that color our university are a welcome sign of spring. As long as Georgetown continues to improve sustainability and encourage the use of native plants, they are also a welcome reminder that beauty need not undermine functionality.