OPINION: The 5Cs need to be more shady

A melting green figure imagines an image of trees. Behind them are abstract fire shapes.
(Seohyeon Lee • The Student Life)

Claremont is “the city of trees.” That’s what my mom, a former San Bernardino resident, would always say about Claremont during my college search. She would talk about the beautiful campuses she used to see on her drive through Claremont to work every morning, something that led me to look at the Claremont Colleges in the first place. 

When I toured the 5Cs’ campuses, I saw no issue with the number of trees they had. But, in the short two weeks I have lived here, I have realized that the 5Cs lack an important byproduct of trees — shade.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been making trips from Pitzer College to Frary Dining Hall, Malott Dining Hall, the Hive and the Honnold-Mudd Library. I have not enjoyed these walks lately. 

This past week, I walked from Pitzer across Claremont McKenna College’s campus to the library. Immediately when I walked into the air-conditioned oasis, I felt it — back sweat. Arguably, it is the worst type of sweat, the most embarrassing type of sweat, the most uncomfortable type of sweat. No wonder walking on the campus felt like a ghost town the past week. No one wants to endure this discomfort: it sucks.

The lack of shade can hinder the colleges’ community. The Claremont Colleges are supposed to be a connected network of schools that are easily accessible to one another, with a wide array of offerings unique to each school. But without shade or places to rest on hot days, no one wants to walk across campus, isolating the colleges from one another.

I recognize Elm Tree Lawn at Scripps and the many trees at Pomona. According to a Pomona College Magazine article this past March, Pomona has “4,000 or so [trees] on campus,” making Pomona’s tree population outnumber its students by more than three times. While walking on the Pomona campus, the increased shade is evident. The rest of the 5Cs — Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Claremont McKenna — should strive for this. 

The lack of shady trees on our campuses makes walking to classes, let alone cross-campus, unbearable. Even more, it decreases the amount of student engagement in our rich campus and cross-campus communities. Community is core at the Claremont Colleges, written in many of our colleges’  values. But for such a big problem, there is a simple solution: create more shade.

However, while it is easy to plant trees, that doesn’t mean we should plant just any tree. As a consortium, we should focus on planting sustainable shade. Luckily, many trees are suitable for dry climates like Claremont and naturally native to Southern California. 

One tree in particular that could be a good fit for our campuses is the Coast Live Oak. According to the California Native Plant Society, Coast Live Oaks are easy to grow and don’t require much watering, especially after the first year. Coast Live Oaks also create better soil health and self-sustaining fertility in the soil they are planted in. The one downside is that they can be slow growing. But this, of course, is only one suggestion for the many possible trees to plant around our campuses. 

While it would be great to walk around campus on hot days and have shade, I also recognize that the solution isn’t as simple as I stated before. Planting new trees would use more water, take time and cost money. However, there are solutions to these problems. 

As I mentioned before, many trees are suitable for our dry climate. In addition, there are also watering techniques that can help us reduce how much water we are using to water the new trees. According to the EPA, “microirrigation systems use 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional sprinkler systems.” Microirrigation also has the added benefit of targeting water to the root system of plants, where water is needed the most. 

Time is also a factor, as trees won’t be fully mature when planting and, therefore, might not put off as much shade at first. While shade might not be immediate, the cooling effect will. This is because plants and other vegetation have a property called evapotranspiration. According to the EPA, “[e]vapotranspiration, alone or in combination with shading, can help reduce peak summer temperatures by 2–9°F (1–5°C).” The EPA also states that evapotranspiration, in addition to shade produced by the trees, would reduce the need for air conditioning, thus conserving power and money.

But action isn’t going to happen overnight. We have the power to organize as students, create tree planting clubs or go to our current garden clubs to take action. 

Let’s take some advice from “The Lorax:” “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” 

If students take purposeful action, the annoying backpack sweat after walking to class could be gone, and the grueling walk to Honnold Mudd Library could be a thing of the past. Let’s get out there and change this. Let’s get out there and throw some shade.

Aaron Matsuoka PZ ’26 is from Redding, Connecticut. They are a certified Coffee Master and love novels, tote bags and going for long walks on the beach.

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