A greener graduation
By Heather Spalding and Nicholas Running
Over the past few years, PSU has been working to create a more sustainable graduation ceremony to celebrate our students’ achievements. In 2010, PSU began participating in the Graduation Sustainability Pledge for social and environmental responsibility through the national Graduation Pledge Alliance. Before or at the ceremony, graduates have the opportunity to sign their name to the following statement:
I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.
More than 4,000 PSU students have signed the pledge over the past three years. Graduates who sign the pledge receive a green ribbon to wear on their gown.
PSU’s new commencement coordinator, Nicholas Running, has a vision for a carbon neutral commencement. In addition to offering educational and leadership opportunities for graduates, he has committed to using 100 percent recycled content for all flyers and promotional materials. Graduation gowns are also made with recycled content, and we make sure sustainability practices are brought to the table when deciding which products to purchase.
Some commencement purchases have been difficult to improve. For example, we have not been able to locate tassels, ribbons, or diploma covers with recycled content or from local or fair trade companies. Together, we hope to continue researching alternatives and seeking solutions as these alternatives become more available.
We also look for local and sustainable flowers to use at the commencement ceremony. This year, we are working with campus landscaping staff to identify plants that could be used for commencement and then planted on campus!
Commencement is a day to celebrate knowledge, citizenship, and education. Through our efforts, we hope this annual event reflects PSU’s values and creates harmonic environmental, social, and economic systems for true sustainability.
Nicholas Running coordinates university commencement, outreach, and marketing for the division of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, and advises the Student Ambassador Program. He is currently pursuing an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Policy from PSU’s Graduate School of Education.
Heather Spalding is the sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator, linking the student leadership efforts of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs with the sustainability efforts of Institute for Sustainable Solutions. She is also pursuing an M.S. in Educational Leadership and Policy from PSU’s Graduate School of Education.