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Vanderbilt takes first steps toward ‘greening’ Commencement and related activities

Posted in NEWS on Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

[Originally published by Vanderbilt News Service in MyVU]

Vanderbilt University is examining Commencement and related activities this year to see where “greener” practices can be adopted. Some changes have been implemented this year with hopes that the university can do more each year.

One of the biggest initiatives for this year is recycling plastic water bottles. Vanderbilt graduates and guests consume an average of 20,000 of them at Commencement and related activities.

At Commencement itself, there will be more than 120 stations set up to recycle the plastic water bottles that are given out for free to students, family and other attendees.

“That many water bottles can add up to a lot of material,” said Jennifer Hackett, Vanderbilt’s recycling coordinator. “For instance, 20,000 bottles could be made into 715 recycled fleece jackets, fill up more than 24 refrigerators, or, when laid end-to-end, stretch from the Vanderbilt stadium to the Cumberland River.”

Plastic bottle recycling will also be offered at The Party on May 7 featuring The Commodores and the Senior Day speech by Nichols Founders medal winner Bob Geldorf on May 8.

Several of the scheduled events have gone beyond recycling to think “green” as well, most notably the traditional breakfast reception and lunch for graduates of Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. In addition to recycling plastic (including the actual beverage cups in addition to plastic bottles), they have implemented a number of green practices, including: plates made of 100 percent recycled fiber and flatwear made from corn products that are 100 percent biodegradable; reducing the number of stations and prep areas to save on linens, ice and energy to wash serving dishes; eliminating fresh cut flowers and using re-usable metal decorations and bedding plants instead; replacing some linens that must be dry-cleaned with burlap and muslin fabric; and buying local food when possible for the menu.

The Party and the GlobalVU luncheon are also adopting more environmentally-friendly practices. Event organizers for the GlobalVU Luncheon on Thursday, May 8, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., opted to do away with individually printed menus and maps, instead producing a comprehensive Web site and several illustrated posters at the lunch. There will also be recycling offered at the event.

In addition to recycling plastic bottles, The Party will recycle the cardboard boxes that the food is transported in, will use dishes and utensils made from recycled materials and The Commodores and other VIPs will be served on china instead of disposable dishes. The caterers are also buying as much local produce as possible from Nashville Fresh Point and bread from Provence.

“The Commencement Office and Peabody College should both be commended for initiating and working hard to implement greener practices this year,” said Andrea George, director of Vanderbilt’s Sustainability and Environmental Management Office. “These are important first steps from which we will learn and further expand these efforts in years to come.”

Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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