Balloons. Caps and Gowns. Greeting cards. Confetti.
So much of what we associate with graduation, whether it be from high school, college, or kindergarten, is single-use. In fact, an orgazation called Greener Grads estimates that an estimated 80-100 million caps and gowns are currently sitting in landfills—enough to fill 25,000 garbage trucks!
What's more? According to Greener Grads, producing graduation gowns alone uses 3.2 million gallons of oil a year, enough oil to provide a day's worth of energy for over 44,000 homes. Wowza.
With a whopping majority of those caps and gowns—as well as many of those single-use items used during the big day—made from petroleum- or synthetic-based materials, that means they're sitting in landfills for a very, very long time.
Hats off to greener graduation ideas
Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can offset the eco cost of all those trillions of tassels. Here are a few simple ways that can make a big difference in terms of cutting waste:
1) Send ecards
According to the Greeting Card Association, American consumers purchase about 7 billion greeting cards every year. Similarly, citizens in the UK purchase nearly 2 billion greeting cards. You know what that means? If we combined the total number of greeting cards that the US and UK purchased in one year alone, and set them flat end-to-end, they would wrap around the world 54 times! That's astounding.
With websites like Paperless Post, E-Vite and so much more, it's easy (and even fun and creative!) and might help you stay organized by sending guests electronic cards.
2) Bring a reusable water bottle to the ceremony
Many schools stick a disposable water bottle underneath the seats for guests and graduates alike during the ceremony. With the potential for thousands of seats and thousands of guests, that quickly adds up.
If it's an option, encourage your school to prioritize water coolers over disposable bottled water—it'll save a ton of waste (perhaps a literal ton...) and help cut down on costs. That sounds like a win-win to us.
3) Recycle (or upcycle!) your graduation cap and gown
With the average graduation ceremony lasting only 90 minutes, graduation caps and gowns can be classified as some of the worst single-use items. Greener Grads offers graduates the option to recycle their caps and gowns: just mail yours to 300 W Forest Avenue, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.
Then, visitors to their website can rent a gown (Perhaps your gown! After they wash and sanitize it, of course...) based on color, size, tassel color, height and more. How easy and awesome is that?!
4) Wrap with love and eco gift wrap
Did you know that over 4 million tons of gift wrap is thrown away in the winter holiday season alone? That doesn't even include
5) Stick a fork in single-use utensils for the party