Environmental Science and Policy
Wasteful consumption lies at the heart of the world’s environmental predicament. Each May at Smith College more than 600 seniors contribute their regalia to methane producing landfills and aquatic ecosystems. Students have three options to acquire graduation attire: Grécourt Bookstore, the SGA Donation Program or hand-me-downs from upperclassman. All current modes of attainment imply a set of tradeoffs. From an economic perspective, regalia cost $71 for students who purchase full garb from Grécourt Bookstore. While they supposedly sell a green product, to biodegrade regalia require specific conditions impractical to realize. The SGA Donation Program and senior hand-me-downs while free and reduce waste, entail disproportionate student access; everything depends on whether one receives financial aid and can then obtain regalia from the small finite collection, or has upperclassman contacts. By formalizing loaning practices to expand SGA’s program, and fostering a relationship with University Cap & Gown to provide students with 100% recycled polyester regalia for only $27.94, Smithies can reduce, reuse and recycle while saving money.
A survey of 56 students depicts an overwhelming 85% stating they would prefer to reuse regalia at no cost and return it, if given the option. Through snowball sampling interviews, an understanding of Smith’s regalia system was obtained. Supplemental lifecycle analysis research and potential alternative models was then presented to administrators in the hopes to implement a reusing regalia donation program. Collaborative efforts between College Relations, SGA, Office of Student Engagement, ResLife and Grécourt Bookstore are underway to further coordinate efforts in late May/early June 2011.
©2011 Tess Zinnes
Zinnes, Tess, "Reusing Regalia: A More Economical and Ecological Choice" (2011). Class Project, Smith College, Northampton, MA.