Three years into the Greening Reunions Alumni Workgroup, and it still seems the University on its planning side would rather view covering our event impacts and properly offsetting the full costs like an optional charitable add-on rather than simply factored in to the baseline hosting rates. The planet is hosting Reunions and the costs need to be internalized by those who wish to see fine Tiger traditions continue. Until then, “Princeton in the Service of Nation and Planet” will be just a hollow slogan.
As the sustainability chair for the 35th Reunion planning committee this year, I have worked to ensure my class successfully made the leap to cover carbon offset costs in our fees. It is only just and fair, amounting to a trivial 2% of the bill. We may actually be carbon negative via some extra donations!
We know that travel getting to and from the event makes 90% of the climate footprint impacts from a Reunions attendee. We can zero that out straightforwardly with carbon offsets already vetted by the University. Offsets may only be part of how we ultimately move forward.
The pandemic taught us all that we can innovate to allow safe and efficient virtual participation in meetings. Reunions must similarly include meaningful parallel tracks for alumni to engage virtually with one another and the University, as a way to continue more sustainably now. For some reason this aspect of the institution seems like the hardest one to change, but evolve it must as each year Reunions brings a renewed celebration of what we are carrying forward in our Tiger traditions.
Demonstrating better practices of sustainability leadership at Reunions will help us all to learn by doing, how to navigate responsibly in these challenging times. We can carry good new ideas back home, instead of bringing them to campus to founder on the historic mountain of cups on the ground after the P-rade has passed.
Princeton has a Sustainability Plan, but leaving out functions like Reunions was a policy mistake. It also denies alumni the opportunity to fully engage with the other evolving University sustainability leadership practices as we reconnect at Reunions. My experience here would see Princeton (“us”) collectively rising to new challenges rather than dodging them.
“Going Back to Nassau Hall” should be a matter of pride, not guilt. Celebrating Reunions responsibly on this planet must not be merely a charitable afterthought. Reunions cups are powerfully symbolic of how responsible we are or aren’t yet, on the continuum of sustainability accountability. Let’s raise the bar as we offer a new round of Locomotive cheers!