Natural Space

GW is committed to adopting practices and nurturing ecosystems services that strengthen habitat and optimize natural space on its campuses, in the Chesapeake region and across its global footprint.

In alignment with the university's 2020 commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance Responsibility, GW will provide more outdoor green spaces to improve biodiversity. Aesthetic beauty and biodiversity are both considerations as GW plans its landscaping, using its Sustainable Landscape Guidelines to reverse ecosystem degradation and ultimately create environments that generate greater health and resilience for the natural world and for the campus community. 



Framework for Sustainable Grounds

Planting in flower beds

Published in 2017, GW’s Sustainable Landscape Guidelines help the university manage its green space as a regenerative landscape that draws from the self-healing and self-organizing capacity of natural plant communities. The guidelines provide guidance for each city square or block the campus occupies — including recommendations for the tree canopy, diverse plantings, turf, soil, urban agriculture and edible landscaping, aesthetics and low-impact development options such as rain gardens and pervious paving.

Developing these guidelines was a positive step toward meeting GW’s targets to increase green space and enhance the biological richness and diversity on its campuses. The report is the result of a partnership between the university, faculty and students in the College of Professional Studies’ Sustainable Landscapes Program, with significant contributions from the local D.C. organization Casey Trees.


Minimizing nighttime light pollution with energy-efficient technology

Night Landscape

Excessive nighttime light (light pollution) can disrupt the natural rhythms of plants and animals and have negative impacts on the psychological well-being and sleep cycles of people. By minimizing unnecessary exterior lighting, using motion and occupancy sensors and installing fixtures that direct exterior light downward, GW reduces energy use and light pollution while maintaining campus safety.


Campus is swarming with beneficial insects


GW has been insecticide-free since 2014, using beneficial insects — instead of harsh chemicals — to manage pests and keep plants on its campuses healthy and vibrant. Choosing plants that are insect- and disease-resistant also helps to limit the need for pesticides and fungicides. GW adds to the beautification and the biodiversity of its campuses by planting native plants, which attract birds and butterflies. These tend to require less long term maintenance and use less water, creating a more sustainable landscape.


Saving the bay, one oyster at a time

Chesapeake Bay biodiversity project

With only one percent of their original population remaining, the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters need all the help they can get. A student-initiated project to collect oyster shells is one of several led by biology professor Tara Scully that focuses on restoring biodiversity in the Bay.

Through the oyster shell recovery program, student volunteers collect oyster shells from area restaurants and community members. After the shells are cleaned and dried, they are returned to the Bay to help rebuild the population by providing homes for baby oysters. Students are also raising oysters and measuring the effects of herbicides and pesticides on the Bay’s marine life – all aimed at improving the health of the Bay.