UNITY, Maine — At Unity College, it seems like every day is Earth Day.
The campus on Quaker Hill Road held several events over the weekend to mark Earth Day 2010, but the students at the small liberal arts school founded 45 years ago by area businesspeople strive to implement an ecological philosophy all the time, Mark Tardif, the associate director of communications, said Tuesday.
“We’re an environmental college, and everything we do is focused on the environment,” he said. “We’re not only one of the most energy-efficient campuses in the United States, we also have a full-time sustainability coordinator, which is astonishing for a campus of this size.”
The community has been holding several events to mark the 40th anniversary of the day — April 22 — founded as an environmental teach-in by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. On Saturday, people participated in a recycle derby and a “Trash and Fashion Show,” both sponsored by the Unity College club Constructive Activists. An environmental leader award ceremony was planned for Tuesday night.
A coming event not tied to Earth Day that nonetheless shows the college’s commitment to sustainability is the commencement ceremony on May 8, which will be Unity’s “greenest” ever.
It may even be the greenest college commencement held in the United States, college officials are speculating.
Other area colleges and universities, notably College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, have held green commencement ceremonies in recent years.
At Unity, some sustainable initiatives that are new this year include sending e-invitations to families and friends, providing just one program per family to reduce paper use and acquiring caps and gowns made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.
The fabric is spun from molten plastic pellets, and an average of 23 bottles go into each graduation gown, Tardif said.
“The question is why would we do that,” he said. “We think there’s a place for a small, environmental college in Unity, Maine, to occupy a place in the national environmental dialogue from time to time.”
As in previous commencements, this year Unity will provide mostly local and organic food at the celebration, borrow or replant potted plants used as decorations and clean with ecofriendly products, among other recurring practices.
As usual, graduating students will receive a sapling and take a pledge to live sustainably.
“Commencement is about the transformational journey over four years to receiving a degree from America’s environmental college,” said Kate Grenier, alumni relations and events coordinator, in a news release. “When students choose to attend Unity, they are making a lifelong commitment.”
According to Tardif, the focus on sustainability at Unity definitely hearkens back to its founding in 1965 by townspeople.
“This is an organic endeavor that organically evolved,” he said. “The founders were farmers, and they did things very sustainably.”