The greening of York University’s convocation ceremonies

Convocation Stage

York University recognizes that it has a responsibility to be sustainable, and so this year extra efforts were made to make the Spring Convocation even greener by introducing collapsible, refillable water bottles.

The bottles, in York red with the convocation logo, are provided to student staff, staff and faculty members participating in the ceremonies. In addition, there are several water-filling stations on site where bottles can be filled New graduate Mark Celinscak, PhD Humanities, with a reusable water bottlewith drinking water free of charge. This initiative will eliminate the use of hundreds of disposable water bottles during the 13 ceremonies that make up Spring Convocation. The adoption  of reusable water bottles is part of a pledge made earlier this year by York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, on behalf of the University, to phase out the sale of disposable water bottles on campus by 2015.

New graduate Mark Celinscak, PhD Humanities, with a reusable water bottle

“The Convocation team has been working hard to incorporate sustainability into many of the elements of the ceremony,” said Sheelagh Atkinson, manager, Ceremonials and Institutional Events. “We are pleased that with the reusable bottles, York’s convocation ceremonies are well ahead of the University’s 2015 timeline.”

In recent years, York University has taken a number of steps to reduce the environmental impact of convocation ceremonies. It started in 2006 with the introduction of electronic invitations to save on paper use. Since then, the University has also eliminated paper flyers for DVD sales by creating an electronic ordering system, where guests can enter their e-mail address to receive ordering information. On the Convocation site, there is a focus on waste diversion to ensure that as much recycling and composting is captured as possible to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

The University is also working closely with the suppliers for Convocation, using caterers that source local food and provide biodegradable plates and cutlery wherever practical. In addition, the robes and other regalia used in the ceremonies are made in Canada and are being laundered using sustainable practices. Flowers sold at Convocation are “Florverde certified”, which is a third-party certification program that monitors social and environmental impacts in the flower industry.

For more information on other sustainability initiatives at York, visit the Sustainability website, or contact Andrew Plunkett, sustainability project coordinator, at, or Pavel Graymason, sustainability engagement coordinator, at