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Press Release

Cal Poly Implements Sustainable Measures to Enhance Commencement Experience

Contact: Aaron Lambert

805-234-4644 [email protected]

Student members of the Cal Poly Zero Waste Club hold a boothing event on campus. The group held the event to take in slightly used graduation gowns that can be used again at commencement.
Student members of the Cal Poly Zero Waste Club accepted slightly used graduation gowns to be used again at commencement. 

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Cal Poly is proud to announce its commitment to sustainable commencement ceremonies. The university has undertaken several initiatives for its upcoming commencement ceremonies on June 17-18 to minimize environmental impact and promote responsible practices.


In a significant stride toward reducing plastic waste, the university will no longer offer plastic bottles during ceremonies. Instead, graduates will receive water in aluminum cans, while water dispensing stations with eco-friendly paper cups will be available for guests. By implementing this change, over 5,600 plastic bottles will be eliminated from the waste stream.


The commencement planning team has also taken steps to reduce the use of printed paper during graduation ceremonies. This year, the university has ordered 12,000 hard copy programs instead of the previous range of 20,000-30,000. Rather than distributing a program to every attendee, guests can access a digital program through a QR code system. Two hard copy programs will be included in each graduate's gift bag, ensuring they have one for themselves and one to share with their supporters.


The Cal Poly Green Campus program recently launched the grad gown recycling program, a joint effort with the commencement team, the Cal Poly Food Pantry, the Educational Opportunity Program and Career Services’ Professional Clothing Closet. This program allows students to borrow graduation gowns free of charge, eliminating the need for them to purchase new gowns that often end up in landfills. After each graduation ceremony, graduates will be encouraged to donate their gown to grow the program for next year. Students may email [email protected] to learn how to donate their gown.


Lastly, the sustainability team has partnered with Jostens, a provider of graduation apparel, to offer the Evergreen Collection caps and gowns through the University Store. With every purchase from this collection, Jostens will donate $1 to support sustainability efforts on campus.


By adopting these sustainability measures, Cal Poly aims to raise awareness about environmental responsibility and encourage other institutions to follow suit.

About Cal Poly

Founded in 1901 and part of the renowned California State University system since 1960, Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive polytechnic public university located in San Luis Obispo, California. Known for its Learn by Doing approach, small class sizes and open access to expert faculty, Cal Poly is a distinctive learning community whose 21,000 academically motivated students enjoy an unrivaled hands-on educational experience that prepares them to lead successful personal and professional lives.