Freshman orientation goes green

Making the shift to college life, whether as a resident or commuter student, is tough: from buying books to living with a roommate to optional class attendance, new students have a wealth of choices and responsibilities open to them (or thrust upon them). At many colleges and universities, another change may include sustainability policies and practices… and this may mean that a student’s navigating composting, organic food, and energy efficiency for the first time.

Just as schools have used orientation activities to introduce incoming students to their new academic and social environments, many are now also including the environment itself in “welcome week.” From zero waste to green career planning, freshmen and transfer students not only get crash courses in making the grade, but also in making changes to their consumption habits.

A few schools introducing sustainability into freshman orientation

  • Carnegie Mellon: Last week, first-year students attended a No Waste Dinner sponsored by the Steinbrenner Institute, Carnegie Mellon’s Eco-Reps, and Carnegie Mellon Green Practices. The buffet dinner featured biodegradable tableware and a look at campus composting areas.
  • Cal Poly: This West Coast technical powerhouse hands out Flash drives rather than paper during its Week of Welcome, provides zero waste food service, and holds a Block Party to introduce new students to environmental clubs and organizations.
  • American University: Orientation at this Washington, DC school includes free canvas shopping bags from Whole Foods, web-based publications (or use of FSC-approved, 100% recycled paper when printed), and purchase of organic cotton shirts for New Student Programs staff.
  • Green Mountain College: Sustainability’s embedded into just about every aspect of this “Coolest School” in the country, including orientation. Specific activities this year include a President’s Bike Tour, and vegetarian and vegan options at the campus BBQ.

The faintest scratch of the surface here… how’s sustainability fit into orientation plans at your school, or one near you?


  • YES! magazine features our writer ziggy’s hand-built cob house.
  • New school year, new bag… check out our current listings of hemp backpacks.

Image credit: michaelcardus at Flickr under a Creative Commons license