Business, College of


First Advisor

Dr. Tawnya Means

Second Advisor

Dr. Donna Dudney

Date of this Version

Spring 3-24-2021


Cooper, C., Dawson, J., Kramer, C., Leapley, L., Steinberger, E., & Wordekemper, B. (2021). Building a Comprehensive Tree Index: Arbor Day Foundation Project.


Copyright (c) 2021 Lauren Leapley, Joe Dawson, Brock Wordekemper, Evan Steinberger, Charlie Kramer, & Coleman Cooper


The Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA and the Tree Campus Higher Education programs create benefits for cities and colleges all over America by following the standards set forth in the application to the programs. The Arbor Day Foundation can use the insights received from this application to capitalize on this data and create value for the partner organizations.

Our recommendations to create value for the Arbor Day Foundation are:

1) Create a uniform Arbor Day Foundation Tree Index to apply to college campuses in Tree Campus Higher Education

2) Expand the use of the Arbor Day Foundation Tree Index to cities in the Tree City USA program to make a comprehensive sustainability score.

For Tree Campus Higher Education, we are recommending that Arbor Day hires a full-time database architect/consultant to create a database of application data, as well as a model for the standard Tree Index. The Tree Index will be based off of data collected from the Tree Campus applications, and will be used to create a ranking system of the different Universities, playing into the competitive spirits and rivalries surrounding college campuses. Our vision for the index is to create a platform where schools can publicly display their tree-friendly contributions to both their students but also members of the community. The goal is not only to draw awareness on social media and in school news releases, but to begin developing long-term mutually beneficial insights from the data the applications provide.

It is intuitive to apply this index to Arbor Day’s Tree City USA after working with Tree Campus Higher Education. Being able to promote positive environmental impacts could potentially be very attractive to cities across the country. An Arbor Day stamp of approval, especially when coupled with partner programs that measure environmental impacts such as air and water quality would catch the attention of many eco-conscious cities. However, this recommendation is secondary due to limitations that would likely be present for certain cities, such as budget shortages.

Large milestones that must be accomplished include the hiring of a Database Administrator, a person who is skilled in research and analytics to devise the specifications of the index and what variables need to be measured. This could include expanding the Certification Survey to ask more questions about the quality and quantities of trees on campuses. After this milestone, roughly three months would be required to construct the official index, perform the initial analysis for each participating school as well as developing recognition materials for each participant.

There are two major milestones that must be accomplished in order to fulfill the Tree City USA requirement. First, Arbor Day must secure partnerships with relevant organizations that can measure things like air and water quality. We estimate that this will take at least six months to a year to accomplish, longer if the number of partner organizations increases. The second milestone is to have enough cities subscribe to this experimental partnership for it to be financially viable. Depending on the amount of early adopters, this step could also take anywhere between six months to a year at a minimum.