Greening Graduations — Time to ReThink

By Larraine Roulston:
I would estimate that today over half of all schools have an Eco Club. When it comes time for commencement, a graduation ceremony is a great time to put all that “green energy” into practice. It’s also a perfect year-end opportunity for students, teachers and volunteers to make meaningful 3Rs decisions.
Usually the pressure is ever present to surpass the previous year’s gala events with frivolous glitz, resulting in fewer energy efficient and waste-free choices. However, with the Eco Club’s help, everyone can take Responsibility (a word always stressed in graduation speeches) to work towards sustainability.

Picture from USToday
Picture from USToday

Every graduation should include a separate Eco Team tasked to clean up at the end of the evening. In the past, usually the commencement committee would undertake the cleanup; however, at the end of the day, they are exhausted. Although recycling is on their radar, it’s little wonder that almost everything gets shoved into large garbage bags. Therefore, the major role of the Eco Team is to ensure that less “stuff” is generated in the first place, arrange for more recycling containers, and guarantee that what remains makes its way to the recycling depot, composters and storage boxes for reuse.
Resolve to be creative with a “do the best with less” mindset by making fewer purchases and striving to print fewer commencement programs. Money will also be saved by avoiding costly disposal fees for items and food that could have been separated rather than trashed. The resulting savings could perhaps provide a new scholarship fund for a deserving environmental science student each year. Another benefit may arise from a local business’s donating its service as a way to promote its “green” philosophy.
The following suggestions will be helpful when hosting a greener graduation.

  • Announce ahead of time that your school or institution’s ceremony is focusing on environmental stewardship. Expectations for outdoing last year’s celebrations will then remain low.
  • Encourage carpooling. Walking is an option if the reception is nearby.
  • A vegetarian, local, organic and in-season menu should be the food of choice. This also supports your local economy. Raising meat for our consumption is one of the biggest contributors to green house gases.
  • Choose only caterers, suppliers and services with lofty environmental policies.
  • Wear quality gowns and caps that can be reused every year.
  • Rent or borrow reusable dinnerware, or purchase from a second hand shop. Avoid individual sugar/cream packets, straws and plastic water bottles.
  • Decorate with leaves, pine cones, and interesting stones, which can later be returned to nature. Pick garden or wild flowers to display.
  • If gifts are awarded, make environmental choices such as reusable stainless steel water bottles.
  • For grad rings, choose recycled metals.
  • Consider energy efficiency when providing entertainment and lighting.
  • Decorate cardboard signage without sparkles or paint so they can be recycled.
  • Avoid balloons and cheap plastic decorations that will not be reused.
  • Donate untouched food to an organization in need, or divide it amongst volunteers.
  • Take unwanted plate scraps to backyard composters or use residential green bins.
  • Place leftover ice cubes around plants rather than dump them into sinks.

ReThink to put your grads into a “class of their own.” Join the Zero Waste Generation.
The Future is R’s.
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Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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