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Q. Dear Umbra,

I’m organizing a building dedication ceremony on my campus. The building is silver-level LEED certified (the first one on our campus!) and I want all the associated events to be as green as possible. I’ve got the invitations and programs covered with an FSC-certified printer, but I want to do something other than the traditional ribbon-cutting … any suggestions?

Kathy
Lexington, state not specified

Bright ribbons.Show your true colors with a greener approach to celebrating.Photo: jmtimagesA. Dearest Kathy,

Cut through a roll of recycled toilet paper! Then just return it to the bathroom stall you grabbed it from.

I kid (sort of, anyway). Congrats and due felicitations on your campus’s uber-green new digs. For a new building to earn LEED silver certification, it must score between 50 and 59 points out of 100, as determined by the U.S. Green Building Council (40 is the minimum for LEED certification). Buildings get points for assembling a tasty array of credits and prerequisites from a veritable buffet of green building options, like public transportation access (six points), innovative wastewater technologies (two points), and others, some of which are required, and some of which have a range of possible points. (It’s a pretty complicated buffet.) Interested nerds — and I say that lovingly — can read all about the ratings in this whopper PDF.

How to make sure the rest of the building’s dedication is as green as the structure itself? There are ribbons made from recycled yarn, cord-like ones made from recycled paper, and biodegradable ribbons made from cotton (although that risks problems with pesticides and resource-intensive production). But if your objection to traditional ribbon-cutting ceremonies is based on the snooze factor, or the “Well, what are we going to DO with all that ribbon afterwards?” factor, you have several more creative options.

With wedding season here, you could take a celebratory cue from green ceremonies where guests blow bubbles or toss birdseed instead of rice (apparently now there’s even starch-based, water-soluble confetti — called ecofetti, naturally). It’s a lovely mental image, picturing solemn collegiates and faculty gathered around a new brick building, tiny bubbles wafting upwards in the warm air until they disappear against the brick with a gentle pop.

Or to do something more directly related to the building’s freshly awarded eco-friendly rating, why not plant a small symbolic tree, bush, or even flower in front? Nothing says green like a tree-planting. I’m not sure what kind of building it is (a dorm? classrooms? bocce ball practice rooms?), but a compost bin would be appropriate if any eating will occur inside. Then again, maybe worms don’t say “ceremony” to you. If you don’t want to get dirt under your fingernails, how about unveiling a bike rack out front? For something low-waste and visually effective, maybe you could arrange for all of the lights to be turned off until your strategic moment, then flicked on one floor at a time in quick succession. (Again, feasibility will depend on what kind of building it is.)

Kathy, you’ve handled the invitations and programs with aplomb — I have faith that whatever idea you choose for the dedication ceremony itself will be as low-impact as it is creative.

Ceremoniously,
Umbra