Pomona class of 2014 makes impact going green

As commencement events took place across many of the Claremont Colleges campuses this weekend, Pomona College planners were busy preparing for a very unique event. Class Day, the celebration of the Class of 2014 and their accomplishments, went green this year and it’s a tradition the liberal arts college hopes to continue.

The Class Day event is the first for organizers in that all waste from the ceremony and dinner for approximately 1,500 students, family and friends as well as from the 30 department events, was either composted or recycled, diverting roughly 10 tons of waste from landfills.

In just two weeks, the college’s Sustainability Integration Office (SIO) coordinated with Student Affairs, Catering and Facilities and Campus Services to pull it all together. SIO director Ginny Routhe was pleased with how quickly it all came together together and how every consideration for “going green” was thoroughly addressed.

“It was great to see how many people were willing to make an extra effort for sustainability,” says Ms. Routhe.   

Following the Class Day ceremony, Pomona College seniors, their families, friends, faculty and staff attended the Class Day dinner where they listened to live music while dining on barbeque, including fried chicken. Catering would usually provide a moist towelette for greasy fingers, however, Student Affairs chose to forgo it because the package wrapper is foil-lined and neither compostable nor recyclable.

“It was the only disposable item at the dinner that would have required a trash bin and that’s why it was given up in lieu of a regular ol’ paper napkin,” says Ms. Routhe.

This year, Facilities & Campus Services made special arrangements with the City of Claremont, acquiring a 40 yard dumpster for the compostable waste and paying for the cost of the roll-off following the event. Family-owned and operated Athens Services was contracted to take the compost to American Organics (AO), their composting facility in Victorville that processes many types of organic materials, including food waste.  Serving municipalities and food service establishments throughout Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, AO was the perfect landfill alternative for the sustainability conscience campus.

Pomona College’s Organic Farm, which normally can accommodate the college’s compost material, couldn’t handle the volume of compostable waste or some of the items used at the event.

“Although the utensils and bones are compostable, they need to be chipped and we don’t have that capability on campus,” says Ms. Routhe adding, ““We also don’t put meat or diary in our heaps so as not to attract rodents, coyotes or other animals.”

Adding to the sustainability effort, Class Day planners’ utilized Pomona’s mobile solar rover, SolTrain, and powered 10 water cooler stations at the ceremony. In addition, catering had multiple beverage stations, with compostable cups, at the evening dinner. In doing this, they were able to reduce the usual number of water bottles normally distributed at the ceremony and dinner from 3,000 to 500.

 “We’re hopeful that this pilot project will lead to similar green events in the future,” added Ms. Routhe.

—Angela Bailey



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