Preparing for graduation is an exciting and memorable experience for students. They've worked hard all year to get to this point, so planning the graduation ceremony and grad after-party may feel like a big responsibility.
Between all the choices to make—from programming, location, to décor and gifts, making eco-friendly choices may not be top of mind, but it's worth considering.
Whether you're a parent organizing a dinner party for your kid, or an instructor coordinating the graduation ceremony, there are benefits to going eco-friendly including reducing waste, helping the planet, saving money, and making eco-conscious students and alumni happy.
According to a Princeton Review survey, 64% of Princeton Review college applicants said a college's commitment to the environment contributed to their decision on where to apply.
To help you plan your eco-friendly graduation ceremony and party, here are some things to consider
Caps and Gowns
Materials made out of plastic, including polyester and acrylic, are common in clothing production. Many schools, colleges, and universities choose polyester regalia because its cheaper, more durable, and easier to giveaway. The problem is these materials don't disappear after getting thrown away. Plastic microfibers from clothes contribute to 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world.
- Get caps and gowns that are made out of recycled materials such as plastic water bottles.
- Arrange to have all students return their caps and gowns after use for next year's graduating class.
Plaques, Awards, and Trophies
Even though it may not appear to be so, many customizable trophies are made of plastic materials including acrylic and resin.
- Source trophies and plaques from an eco-friendly company that uses recycled glass, up-cycled materials, sustainable wood, metal or glass.
Invitations & Programs
As easy as it may be to print on regular paper, this contributes to tree cutting and habitat loss. As well, some glossy paper is coated with polymer plastic to make it appear shiny.
- Put out a recycling or compost bin for guests to toss their papers out after the service.
- Opt for eco-friendly paper options such as plantable seed paper.
- Reduce the number of materials ordered and packaged.
- Make sure any glossy paper you order is coated with clay, not polymer plastic.
Food, Drinks & Catering
Preparation, packaging and delivering of produce, meats and other foods involve substantial use of plastics and gas. Some companies use unnatural preservatives to keep food from spoiling on the road. On average, it takes 1500 miles before delivered food gets to the average American household.
- Choose locally-sourced ingredients and reduce the amount of meat served wherever possible.
- Ask your caterer if they offer biodegradable food packaging or at the very least, recyclable or reusable containers.
Graduation Party Favors
Giving a small token to commemorate the occasion is a nice touch but if you aren't careful about what you choose, you may be creating a lot of unnecessary waste. If the favors aren't useful and/or meaningful, guests may lose or throw them away after the ceremony.
- Choose waste-free handouts such as edible bakings, potted plants, or glassware.
- Get favors made out of recycled, biodegradable, or reusable materials, such as seed paper graduation favors. These favors are fully plantable after use, growing into wildflowers.
Some gift ideas are harmful to the environment: single-serve coffee machines, candles, plastic phone cases, bath products with microbeads, and disposable battery-powered electronics. Gift wrapping, tissue paper, and glitter are also guilty of adding to our landfills.
- Purchase gifts made out of sustainable, recycled, reusable, or biodegradable materials.
- Use recycled paper, newspaper, or seed paper to wrap gifts. Reuse gift bags you've received in the past.
- Gift your graduate a family heirloom, jewelery made out of recycled materials, cash, reusable kitchen accessories or a donation to a cause they care about.
Students, faculty, family, and alumni burn a lot of gas driving to and from the graduation ceremony and after-party.
- Offer a carpooling option for students going to and from the ceremony and after-party.
Signage and Décor
Many balloons, streamers, confetti, party hats, banners, table covers, tissue, plates, cutlery, and cups are single-use items made out of plastic.
- Look for party décor made out of recycled materials or seed paper.
- Ask to borrow décor and signage from other people or store and reuse items.
With a little planning, it's possible to reduce waste and save money with an eco-friendly convocation and grad after party.
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