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Green Events bill promotes environmentally-friendly residence halls



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McNutt Quad residents attend the Holly and Ivy dinner dance Dec. 6, 2018 . The dance was certified as a Green Event by Sustain IU for making environmentally friendly decisions like using reusable dinner ware and decorations. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Students meandered around in cocktail attire, sipping Welch’s sparkling grape juice from champagne flutes. Martini glasses filled with plastic beads stood as centerpieces, while spare poker chips and playing cards were scattered across the tables.

The Holly and Ivy dinner dance in December is a more than 50-year-old tradition at McNutt Quad. But this year, in lieu of disposable plates and napkins, students ate their food off reusable plates and used washable napkins.

For the first time, the end-of-semester celebration was certified as a Green Event by Sustain IU.

All future events sponsored by the Residence Hall Association will be required to abide by these same environmentally-conscious standards, after the Green Events Bill, for which the Residence Hall Association and Sustain IU partnered, into effect Oct. 1, 2018. It was passed by the Residence Hall Association Sept. 12, 2018.

Affected events include residence hall activities and any outside events receiving money from the association, but any event happening on campus can be certified, said Sustain IU engagement intern Lindsey Nelson.

Sustain IU, made up of faculty, staff and students, aims to create a culture of sustainability at IU. 

To become green certified, event planners have to meet at least 14 of the 26 requirements during the application process, according to the Sustain IU website. These range from using electronic advertising to providing vegetarian or vegan food options for attendees.

Although it will be difficult to modify events with large crowds, the task is not impossible, Zach Fischer, Director of Sustainability for the Residence Hall Association, said.

"It's a big task, but we're on track," he said.

For example, Nelson said the Jill Behrman 5K race in October, which had about 2,000 participants, made conscious effort to implement environmentally-friendly practices. 

“We wanted to use it as a sort of tester event,” she said.

Sustain IU is planning to focus on events in residence halls so students will take notice and change their habits.

“It’s an effective way to ingrain this idea of being environmentally friendly into the culture of IU,” Nelson said. “There are so many events on campus that create so much waste if people aren’t conscious about it.”

McNutt Student Government President Becca Stein said she spent all semester thinking about how to plan the Holly and Ivy dinner dance with environmentally-friendly options in mind.  The reusable materials were sometimes more expensive than the disposable ones, Stein said, but now they can be used for future parties.

“When you first read the bill, you’re like ‘Oh no, this’ll be so hard,’” she said. “But it was so simple. It just took a bit longer to plan because you had to be like, ‘Okay, now let’s find a version of this you can recycle.’”

The goal is to have 200 certified events on campus by 2020, according to the Sustain IU website. 

Fischer said the main obstacle now is getting organizers for the larger events on board.

“Every event is supposed to be certified, but we’re allowing five exemptions for things like the Block Party and Little 500,” he said. “We structured the bill to have a little leeway so these events could still happen, because it was unrealistic to expect such big changes the first year.”

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