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Greening Graduation - Humboldt State Now

Greening Graduation

On May 15, the Redwood Bowl will be flooded with green and gold for Humboldt State University's 2010 Commencement.

But the flags and banners won’t be the only thing “green” about the ceremony. A variety of efforts are underway to make the event more environmentally friendly.

HSU’s Commencement is set for May 15 in the Redwood Bowl.

Perhaps the biggest change is that this year’s Commencement will be free of plastic bottles. Instead, chilled filtered-water (with mint and lemon garnishes, no less) and compostable cups will be available for guests and graduates at several hydration stations. And the Humboldt Alumni Office will be on hand selling Kleen Kanteen reusable water containers.

The work to eliminate plastic bottles is being led by numerous student groups – including HSU Take Back the Tap, Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program, Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Natural Resource Club, Housing and Residence Association, Environmental & Social Justice Club Coalition, Service Learning, Green Campus, and Graduation Pledge Alliance.

Take Back the Tap students prepare the plastic drums that will store drinking water for Commencement ceremonies.

These students will also be working to reduce waste and improve recycling related to the event’s concessions.

The idea of a bottle-free Commencement started with Environmental Science Policy major and graduating senior Kylee Singh. “We’ve done bottle-free events before, but nothing of this magnitude,” she says. According to Singh, it just makes sense. “It’s pure, clean water. And it’s local.”

A bottle-free event is just the first step toward waste reduction at graduation, says Commencement Coordinator Mary-Kay Hartman. “We will look at how we do this year and find ways to do even better in the future.”

“We’re really so grateful to the students for all of their efforts,” Hartman says. “It’s been wonderful working with them.”

Ironically, plastic bottles will play a constructive role in commencement too. This year, all 1,400 graduate and undergraduate gowns sold by the HSU Bookstore are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. The campus will also print fewer Commencement programs per graduate this year, with an eye toward reducing the amount of paper used.

Making Commencement a more socially and environmentally responsible event ties in well with the spirit of HSU’s pioneering Graduation Pledge. By taking the voluntary pledge, graduates commit themselves to considering the social and environmental consequences of future job opportunities.

This year, in addition to encouraging graduating students to take the pledge, the Graduation Pledge Alliance is working with students in IT 308 to collect donations for the Making Commitment Real donation fund. Proceeds will go toward Malawi, Tools For Life.

Details about Commencement are available at