Ohio University Makes Its Commencement a Zero Waste Event

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When it comes to recycling, most people focus on the daily impacts and applications of this service, from choosing the the right waste removal companies and recycle centers to teaching people what to recycle. However, a small number of organizations are working to ensure that their events are environmentally-friendly and reduce waste as well. Take Ohio University’s Commencement, for example: under a program known as the Zero Waste initiative, the college’s activities were designed to reduce their impact on the local area.

The idea for the Zero Waste Commencement was developed to reduce the considerable amount of waste left behind by the crowds who attend the university’s events. As a result, OU’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs partnered with the nonprofit organization Rural Action as part of the Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative, a program sponsored by the Sugar Bush Foundation. Under this partnership, the college committed to meeting, or even surpassing, a number of benchmarks for sustainability and reduced impact

While last year’s commencement was technically the initiative’s second Zero Waste event, the organizers learned a number of lessons that they were able to apply to this year’s ceremony. One of the biggest changes was replacing landfill bins with compost and recycling receptacles at Zero Waste Stations. These stations also included signage with recycling information to help capture and divert all waste from the landfill. Additionally, visitors were encouraged to download the Commencement program to reduce paper waste from printed programs, while tweets and video boards from Zero Waste were designed to promote the event’s recycling services. Finally, the commencement will feature a buffet-style lunch for workers with compostable serviceware.

But while these efforts will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the local environment, OU says it is also encouraging individual schools to contact Zero Waste representatives after Commencement about reducing their waste, especially if they are hosting individual receptions. Hopefully, this program will spur visitors and college members alike to pursue recycling efforts outside of school events, by looking for environmentally-responsible waste removal companies and more.

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