Divest the Rest: we're not done yet
Alumni - Faculty Panel
Friday 26 May 11 am McCosh 28
Claire Kaufman *23, Divest Princeton Lead Researcher & former Environment Policy Advisor
Tina Eonemto Stege '97, Climate Envoy for the Marshall Islands
Tibita Kaneene '03, Vice President, NY Green Bank
Tom Taylor *21, Co-founder Divest Princeton & Climate Policy Analyst
Friday 26 May 3:30 pm Frist - East TV Lounge 122
The Greening Reunions Alumni Working Group
In 2017, the University first offered major Reunions classes the option to designate sustainability chairs to coordinate environmental efforts in their planning. In 2020, the Greening Reunions Alumni Working Group (GRAWG) was formed. Since then, a dedicated group of alumni led by Thara Srinivasan '95 have been proposing and piloting innovative solutions. The group’s ultimate vision is carbon neutrality and zero waste.
For the first time, using Princeton's alumni survey data, the group was able to estimate the carbon footprint of Reunions travel as 7,900 tons of CO2. This compares to the annual electricity consumption of 1,500 homes, or more than 10% of Princeton's annual campus emissions goal for 2026.
So far in 2023, the group has raised nearly $32,000 from alumni in major Reunions classes in order to purchase carefully vetted travel carbon offsets, which the group estimates will cover more than 20% of Reunions travel emissions. The university, however, is unwilling to ask classes to build carbon offsets into their Reunions budgets, so this remains a voluntary year-by-year effort.
In addition to carbon emissions from travel, Reunions weekend generates a massive amount of waste - 110 tons of landfill waste in 2019. To begin to address this, the alumni group and the Class of 1998 are partnering with TURN to pilot a reusable cup service at this year's 25th Reunion to potentially save 40,000 plastic cups from landfill. TURN has partnered with festivals like Lollapalooza and can provide a scalable cup solution for Reunions. But even if the pilot is successful, it will be difficult to broaden it across Reunions as long as Princeton lacks an overarching sustainability plan for the whole event.
Read PAW's 2023 Climate Issue article about GRAWG
"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." - J. David Hohmann ’88, GRAWG member and Sustainability Chair for the 35th Reunion
Read the full letter by David Hohmann '88
Read a 2022 call to action by Thara Srinivasan ’95
Read PAW's 2016 article about greening reunions
What you and your class can do
Write Director of Reunions Mibs Southerland (cc President Eisgruber, Exec Vice President Treby Williams, Provost Jennifer Rexford) urge the university to work with alumni and adopt a Reunions sustainability plan to achieve carbon neutrality and zero waste through the following initiatives:
require classes to include a sustainability line item in Reunions budgets to cover carbon offsets and reusable cup services
widen the reusable cup program in partnership with TURN to all tents
eliminate single-use plastic for meals
collect food waste for composting
create a sustainability page on the Reunions website
livestream faculty-alumni panels to enable virtual participation
Write your class reps and ask your class:
for a vegetarian dinner on Thursday night and other dinners that are beef-free
for collective transportation from nearby major cities
to encourage and facilitate carpooling
to ensure that Reunions swag is made of sustainable materials
for virtual events, which avoid incurring carbon emissions and promote equity for those who are unable or choose not to travel