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Oberlin College Erases Carbon Footprint for 175th Commencement

OBERLIN, OHIO — Oberlin College is taking eco-friendly to a new level by completely offsetting the carbon footprint of its 2008 Commencement/Reunion weekend, May 23-26.

With a $5,000 donation from Bon Appétit Management Company, which manages Oberlin’s Campus Dining Services, the College will purchase offsets for the weekend’s carbon emissions from Carbonfund.org, an organization that supports carbon-reducing projects such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and reforestation projects.

The total carbon offset expands on the success of last year’s green initiatives for commencement weekend, which encouraged participants to make a voluntary contribution to Carbonfund.org.

While last year’s participation was successful, the offsets mainly covered guest travel. In comparison, the donation from Bon Appétit means Oberlin can completely offset everything from travel, lodging, meals, energy consumption, waste disposal, and production, says Nathan Engstrom, environmental sustainability coordinator for Oberlin College.

More than 5,000 alumni, family members, and friends are expected attend the 52 Commencement/Reunion events, highlighted by a champagne luncheon and evening picnic.

Engstrom says the Carbonfund.org purchase will also cover incidental factors that are hard to quantify, such as prep work or extra energy used throughout the weekend.

Beyond Carbon Offsets – Oberlin’s Green Commencement

Building on last year’s event, Bon Appétit will again offer local food and serve meals on bioware plates and flatware. Waste will be collected in special containers and composted offsite by Barnes Nursery in Huron, Ohio.

“All events that weekend will feature as much local food as we can get, depending on farmers and their crops,” says Rick Panfil, Bon Appétit’s general manager at Oberlin. Panfil estimates that 38 percent of the food served by Campus Dining Services will come from local sources.

Since 2001, Bon Appétit has been an active partner with Oberlin College in expanding its sustainability efforts to include more local artisans and growers, purchasing fair trade coffee and chocolate, repurposing spent cooking oil to benefit the suburban Cleveland area, composting, waste reduction, and using biodegradable serving ware.

Some examples planned for the champagne luncheon include locally grown organic vegetables from Green Field Farms in Fredericksburg, Ohio; home-made rolls from Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin; chicken salad provided by Gerber’s Poultry in Kidron, Ohio; and Amish cheese from Berlin, Ohio. Workers will serve the food on china to about 1,300 guests.

At the picnic, locally grown food will be served on bioware, a molded cellulose fiber/limestone product that doesn’t contain any plastic resin and breaks down in active compost systems. Both the place settings and flatware are completely biodegradable.

Throughout the weekend, guests will be encouraged to visit the Green Education booth set up by the Office of Sustainability, where they can purchase carbon offsets individually through Carbonfund.org. In 2007, 110 people made donations totaling $535, or 97.34 tons of carbon offset.

“We’re still offering individuals the opportunity to make a contribution and take an active role in reducing their carbon footprint,” Engstrom says. “This is an educational process. We’d like guests to start thinking about these ideas in general.”

Other key green initiatives for the Commencement/Reunion weekend:

  • Only hybrid vehicles will be rented for guest transportation.
  • In keeping with the class of 2007, the graduating class will be asked to sign a pledge to adopt a model of sustainability in their lifestyles and careers. Signers will receive green ribbons to wear during the commencement ceremony.
  • The full Commencement/Reunion weekend program and other literature will be printed on 100 percent post-consumer paper.
  • Instead of printing reunion directories, the 25th Reunion Planning Committee is directing all of its alumni to the Internet for classmate connections at www.oberlin.edu/alumni.

Students and visitors also will be encouraged to place recyclable items in campus receptacles around campus, walk to events instead of drive, and review energy savings in residence halls with Oberlin's real-time Campus Resource Monitoring System.

This year’s commencement also celebrates the 175th anniversary of the joint founding of Oberlin College and the City of Oberlin. A free concert by the Oberlin College Orchestra, featuring guest conductor David Zinman ’58, is scheduled 8 p.m. Sunday, May 25 at Finney Chapel.

Media Contact:
Scott Wargo
Director of Media Relations

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