May 16 UC Commencement Is More ‘Sustainable’

Ursinus College’s 141st Commencement Ceremony on May 16 will introduce some new sustainability initiatives such as rented gowns, compostable utensils and plates, and reusable flowers.  

The ceremony has been moved indoors to the Floy Lewis Bakes Center field house because of the threat of heavy rain. An honorary Doctor of Laws will be awarded to the commencement ceremony speaker, Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict at the United Nations. An honorary Doctor of Divinity degree will be awarded to Rev. Gail E. Bowman, Esq., Chaplain and Director of the Willis D. Weatherford, Jr. Campus Christian Center at Berea College. Rev. Bowman is the speaker at the Baccalaureate service, which is a ticketed event for families of graduates. More information can be found on the Ursinus commencement web page.

The sustainable commencement initiatives, championed by the Commencement Committee, in collaboration with the Office of Sustainability. “Renting commencement gowns is a big step toward reducing waste associated with a large-scale event like commencement,” said Sustainability Planner Shannon Spencer. “The disposable gowns that we used to use often ended up in the trash. The rental gowns are not only made from recycled materials, but are returned after our commencement to be used by another institution later.”

At the commencement celebrations, steps are being taken to reduce food-related trash. Dining services provider Sodexo will provide compostable plates, cups (hot and cold) and napkins. All food-related waste will go into one bin and will be sent to our compost facility. Once those materials are composted, they are returned to campus to spread on lawns and flower beds. Another waste diversion effort is that Ursinus will purchase flowering plants rather than cut flowers. These plants are then planted on campus in our flower beds.

In addition to the new practices, some of the practices initiated in recent years are continuing, including water and coffee stations at the graduation tent (rather than offering plastic water bottles), with compostable, rather than recyclable, cups. There is also a mobile-friendly version of the commencement website that includes a digital version of the program, as an alternative to the printed program.

Also marking the end of the school year is the College’s fifth Sustainable Move-Out. During the time leading up to commencement, the Office of Sustainability’s Sustainable Move-Out diverts more than 10,000 pounds of usable items from ending up in the local landfill each year. The tents opened May 9 and will stay open through May 17, serving as collection centers for students’ unwanted clothes, shoes, sheets, towels, bookshelves, couches/futons, electronics, decorations, appliances and more.  More information is here.