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Sustainability at Orientation

August 17, 2019 Bryan McGrath Director of Student Life & Career Services

August is here and summer is almost over (sigh). It’s time for us to prepare for the beginning of the fall semester and put the final touches on our New Student Orientations. The Sustainability Knowledge Community (SKC) would like to take a brief moment to encourage all of you to consider including sustainability practices into your opening of school procedures and orientation events. Here are some SKC suggestions, many of which have been inspired by schools across the country:

  • Create a pre-orientation program that revolves around outdoor education or environmental initiatives or “green” projects. PennGreen is a great example: https://www.sustainability.upenn.edu/participate/students/penngreen-pre-orientation
  • Offer eco-friendly giveaways to your incoming class such as LED light bulbs, water bottles, or reusable utensil sets.
  • Host a service learning project before or during orientation, whether that is a working at a local farm or cleaning up your community or assisting a social justice organization.
  • Publicize your recycling processes throughout the residence halls and public spaces. Simple posted reminders can go a long way!
  • Hire student eco-ambassadors or a “green team” that can support your school opening and orientation programs. Use them to further explain recycling, composting, food, or other sustainability initiatives you may have on campus. Check out Boston University’s model: http://www.bu.edu/sustainability/putting-emphasis-on-sustainability-at-orientation/
  • Share a comprehensive list of sustainability tips for incoming students to review before they arrive on campus. Macalester College does this very well: https://www.macalester.edu/orientation/lifeatmac/sustainability/
  • Organize a “Yard Sale” or “Trash To Treasure Market” in which students can pick-up gently used clothes, furniture, or room items that were donated or collected at spring move-out. Unity College (ME) showcases this during their orientation as well as Harvard University: https://green.harvard.edu/news/orientations-go-green
  • Encourage your catering service to serve food from local farms, start a composting program, or post a thermometer that displays amount of food wasted each day.
  • Plant a tree as part of your orientation program. Unity College (ME) has a tree dedication ceremony as an annual orientation tradition!
  • Combat food insecurity by opening a food pantry on campus that provides access to healthy food items and small household goods for students in need.
  • Provide “green tours” for incoming students and families so that you can show off your garden, recycling program, LEED buildings, or whatever cool initiatives you may have. Green Mountain College offers comprehensive campus tours which include carbon output maps: https://reports.aashe.org/institutions/green-mountain-college-vt/report/2011-07-29/ER/co-curricular-education/ER-3/