The April shower is clear and you’re walking to class in the humid haze of an Ohio spring, passing the perfectly-curated tulips, surrounded by impeccably-placed dark mulch that are all engulfed in the plaid-clad grass of the quad. The trees are in full bloom, the red brick walkway is ice-free and the ‘most beautiful campus that ever there was’ rings true in your head.
Until you reach the seal. The trash is overflowing, champagne bottles overwhelm the brick path and used confetti litters the landscape. The most beautiful campus that ever there was? Not so much.
Seniors, we love you, but that confetti doesn’t magically disappear after you snap the photo for the front of your grad card.
Confetti not only unpleasantly lingers around the stones of Upham Hall for a couple of days, but also it can take 1,000 years to break down. You are literally popping centuries’ worth of plastic into the environment just for a single snapshot.
Graduation waste doesn’t end with confetti and non-recycled champagne bottles; the waste of the celebrating weekend adds up. White dresses and heels are usually only bought for the occasion and grad robes are quickly sent to the attic after a day’s worth of ceremony. In terms of wearable items, renting a grad robe and re-wearing a white dress (or buying one that will last), are easy, responsible choices for the environment.
The well-deserved post-ceremony celebrations also come at an environmental cost through invitations, throwaway utensils, single-use decorations, plastic cups and excessive food. Consider sending invitations virtually or on recycled paper, getting an accurate headcount to plan your graduation celebration menu in an attempt to reduce food waste and providing easily-accessible recycling bins during the celebrations. Silverware can be used and washed. Reusable decorations (that can be sold or given to your younger friends afterwards) exist.
For that extra step in going green, consider composting the food waste generated during graduation parties. In general, up to 70% of what goes into our landfills could be composted, but to combat this the City of Oxford offers a free compost dropoff location that can be accessed 24/7. If you cringe every time you drive by the Rumpke trash mountain on the way to Cincinnati, do your part to make sure it doesn’t grow any bigger and uglier: compost.
At the very least, please pick up your confetti after graduation photos instead of leaving it scattered around campus.
This isn’t just a message for graduating students — it's something for underclassmen to think about every day in college, and as we move on throughout our lives.
Recently, in my French class, we watched La Haine, a nineties crime drama tackling police brutality in Paris. In one of the most powerful scenes from the film, main character Saïd walks past a wall graffitied with “Le monde est à vous,” meaning “The world is yours.” He stops and, with a bottle of spray paint, changes it to “Le monde est à nous”, translating to “The world is ours.”
As young adults, we’re often told the world is our oyster, we can go anywhere in life and do anything we want. The sky’s the limit.
But especially as young adults, we truly have to be the change we want to see in the world. If we can change our own habits of wastefulness one step at a time, whether it's by composting at a grad party or bringing our own silverware to the dining hall, we can be an example for others.
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We must remember that the world is ours, all of ours to share, so let's take care of it.