Fruit trees on campus would provide students with free snacks, without costing the university additional upkeep.
Many college campuses around the United States have planted fruit trees across their land, which would be a great improvement from our campus’ cloned trees, which do not actually offer students anything other than aesthetic value. As the want and need for greater sustainability increases, planting fruit trees is a simple idea that many campuses are adopting. Places like Stanford even have an unofficial guide made by students for eating fruit on campus.
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is one such college. In 2013, their office of sustainability planted 18 fruit-bearing trees for students. Their reasons for doing so were varied, ranging from wanting students to be more environmentally and agriculturally conscious to simply feeding students, following a simple system of taking only what you plan to eat and leaving the rest for others. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has an on-campus population of around 19,291 students, a little more than four times the number of students that we have. If 18 trees were enough for their efforts, then the same amount should be more than enough for the University of Tulsa.
Even if not all students want to take advantage of free fruit, we would still be better off. This is because we would spend the same amount of money watering the trees, whether they were the cloned trees or the fruit trees. Perhaps fruit trees on campus would also benefit us by teaching us about when fruit is ripe, when each fruit is in season and how easy growing produce is for the average person. Fruit trees would simply be more sustainable because they actually produce something that can benefit this campus.
The cost that would make the main difference for these trees would be the initial setup cost, which would depend on how many trees are planted and if the other trees must be removed to do so. The younger the tree, the less expensive usually. However, tree removal can cost over $1000 depending on height, so for optimal pricing the trees could take root somewhere else on campus where there are not as many trees currently. Some ideas could be planting them by Keplinger, Fisher West or by the gym.
The other costs would include things that the university already does for its other trees, including general upkeep. The only real downsides are the amount of time that would have to pass for the trees to grow to maturity (2–5 years) and that they may need to purchase a different insecticide, fungicide or fertilizer to have actual edible fruits. Additionally, only certain fruit trees will produce in Oklahoma, which mainly consists of apples, peaches and pears. So we will not be able to get just any tree that we want; it has to be a certain variety. Occasional food shortages for college students are common. If, in addition to cheap and unhealthy food, students could go out and pick fruit, they would be able to have a more balanced diet, which is important to advocate for in an academic environment.
It would be nice to see the university going more out of their way to try to positively benefit its students, even if the gesture is small. The only real reasons for the cloned trees seems to be that University Ambassadors can tell people that they are cloned trees and that they look nice.