Staffordshire University makes sustainable swaps for summer awards ceremonies

Staffordshire University's sustainable swaps significantly reduce the amount of waste produced during its graduation ceremonies.

Sustainable Graduation Ceremonies

For its summer graduation ceremonies, this year Staffordshire University ensured a more sustainable offering for its 2,238 graduating students and almost 7,000 guests, that celebrated over five days in July.

Sustainable swaps significantly reduced the amount of waste produced over the five days of ceremonies, and while we will continue to adopt these for other events, we want to look at going further to reduce, and ultimately eliminate the use of single-use, unsustainable items in future.

Helen Rutherford, Head of Campus Facilities Management at Staffordshire University

For its summer graduation ceremonies, this year Staffordshire University ensured a more sustainable offering for its 2,238 graduating students and almost 7,000 guests, that celebrated over five days in July.

On arriving pre-ceremony for gowning and registration at the University’s The Catalyst building, graduands and guests were given a “Bottle Up” reusable water bottle.

Made from renewable sugar cane and BPA free, the bottles could be refilled throughout the day at The Catalyst and Students’ Union’s venue, The Verve, and their durability means they are safe for daily reuse. This was the first year trialling the reusable bottles, with the aim of fully rolling these out at future events.

Following registration, the 14 graduation ceremonies took place at the Grade II listed King’s Hall in Stoke-on-Trent, where graduates and guests could pick up a copy of the Summer Awards 2022 brochure.

To reduce waste, the 2022 brochure had half the number of pages compared to the November 2021 brochure – honorary biographies and graduand names were instead available online and accessed via a QR code – and 30% less copies were printed.

On returning to The Catalyst for the post-ceremony celebrations, graduates and guests were given glass champagne flutes, instead of the single-use plastic flutes used previously, which were washed and re-used throughout the week.

Single-use glass bottles of prosecco were also replaced with sparkling wine on tap, providing 160 glasses per keg, a change that will continue to be rolled out at future events. Alongside the sparkling wine, graduates were given small boxes of chocolates which no longer have plastic packaging inside like previous years.

All branding for the event, including the banners and draping material is reusable, and will be utilised for future awards ceremonies and events.

John Melia, Head of Registry Operations at Staffordshire University, said: “Graduation is the largest event we deliver for our students and with sustainability being such a huge priority for us as a University, making sustainable changes to the event was non-negotiable.

“This year was the first time hosting our post ceremony reception and associated activities in our flagship building The Catalyst, so it was the perfect opportunity to make changes, such as giving out reusable water bottles and using glass champagne flutes for the sparkling wine on tap.”

While the July celebrations took place in extreme temperatures, meaning portable air conditioning units had to be added to the Kings Hall for the ceremonies, the design of The Catalyst and the mechanical ventilation systems within the building, ensured that areas remained cool for guests without the need for air conditioning.

This is just one of the technologies which has been incorporated into the design of the building to reduce its carbon footprint. You can find out more about how sustainability has been incorporated into the building design by watching our Sustainability at The Catalyst Series.

Helen Rutherford, Head of Campus Facilities Management at Staffordshire University, added: “Due to the unprecedented heatwave we experienced, the University had to make some difficult decisions to ensure the safety and comfort of the graduands and guests, which included supplementing the reusable bottles with single-use water bottles and also adding portable air conditioning units at the King’s Hall.

“However, the other sustainable swaps significantly reduced the amount of waste produced over the five days of ceremonies, and while we will continue to adopt these for other events, we want to look at going further to reduce, and ultimately eliminate the use of single-use, unsustainable items in future.”

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