In the last few weeks before graduation, many Texas State students can be seen taking graduation photos throughout campus. There is an air of excitement and nerves as seniors count down the weeks; students worried about finals, graduation parties, grad photos etc. There is a popular trend that has been negatively affecting both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife around campus. In recent months emails concerning the use of plastic confetti and glitter for graduation photos have been sent out to the student body by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs in hopes of spreading awareness before graduation. Human-Environmental-Animal-Team or H.E.A.T.(Texas State organization “dedicated to improving the world through positive activism”) member and freshman at Texas State Haley Johnson, said she was tired of seeing confetti and glitter strewn throughout the campus and decided to pitch an idea at a H.E.A.T. meeting in search of solutions for the environmental dilemma.
A sign in front of Old Main warns students to avoid the use of plastic confetti and glitter for graduation photos in an effort to prevent negative effects the non-biodegradable materials may have on the environment and both aquatic and terrestrial wildlife surrounding the campus.
The sign shows the effects the plastic and metal material have on fish that have mistakenly eaten them thinking it was food. The material can cut the fish from the inside or potentially clog their intestines, preventing digestion, which could lead to death.
Emails have been sent out to the student body from the Office of the Vice President for Student affairs concerning the use of non-biodegrable materials used in graduation photos that could potentially be harmful to the environment.
Despite emails and signs around campus, remnants of plastic and metal confetti and glitter can be seen throughout campus in the few weeks before graduation causing concern for environmental organizations like H.E.A.T.
Haley Johnson, H.E.A.T. member and freshman at Texas State said confetti and glitter make their way into the ecosystem through storm drain pipes that lead straight to the river and can be mistaken for food by salamanders, turtles, fish, and birds. Johnson said there are twelve endangered species living in or on the river and could potentially become extinct if their fragile environment is continually destroyed.
Taylor Tribbey, a senior at the University, also a journalism major, said he is concerned with the use of plastic and metal material being used for graduation photos. Tribbey said he is worried that students will continue to ignore signs throughout campus causing more harm to the environment.
A storm drain pipe in front of Old Main says the pipe leads straight to the river and dumping should be avoided.
Tribbey picked up some of the confetti he found in front of the drain pipe in front of Old Main to illustrate how easily the hazardous materials can find their way into the river if not properly disposed.
Remnants of the materials can be seen throughout Texas State. Many students continue to use the environmentally hazardous materials, leaving them behind, either to be washed away by rain into the drain pipes or blown by the wind into the river and the surrounding area.
The materials also become mixed with leaves when university workers come by with leaf blowers, becoming one with the surrounding landscape.
Johnson is worried the campaign she pitched might not be spreading awareness fast enough as she continues to see evidence of the materials being used throughout the campus.
Although the remnants are shiny colorful reminders of the festivities to be had in the next coming weeks, for those concerned they are deathly reminders of what will happen in the next few years if the issue is not properly addressed.
Johnson created a biodegradable version of the hazardous materials and hopes the idea of using organic alternative will catch on. She said colorful rice, bird seed, and flower petals are just a few of the organic options graduates can opt for when deciding to take their graduation photos. Johnson has handed out many of her organic confetti bags in the quad and throughout the campus, hoping her message will be heard. Johnson also said organic alternatives can be store bought at specialty stores.
Johnson created her version of organic confetti by dying rice grains with blended beets for maroon and turmeric for gold, displaying Texas State University colors.
Photo Story: Valerie Figueroa