UNH Commencement 2009

Mark W. Huddleston

President, University of New Hampshire
May 23, 2009
Memorial Field
Durham, New Hampshire

Good morning, Class of 2009, the greenest class ever to graduate from the Blue and White. Well, the greenest since the Class of 1892—anyway—, when graduates were given their diplomas in the cow barn because it was then the only building on campus! I’m sure you are all pleased that we’ve moved on from the cow barn—especially those of you wearing sandals. 

Today is a momentous day for you graduates, and for your families and friends. 
It is a day of celebration and of reflection. In your time with us—which flew by for most of you students, I suspect, even those of you on the five or six year plan, and which seemed endless for the parents paying the bills—you grown and developed in ways that you probably never imagined when you first came to our campus. You have learned to inquire and to find answers to difficult questions. You have been active participants in the community, donating your time to worthy causes. You have run races, scored touchdowns, and swum laps. You have certainly become a hockey fan. You have made lifelong friends and had some fun along the way. In fact, living as we do in that big brick house just down the street, some nights Emma and I have been convinced that you were maybe having a little too much fun. 

Today is also a momentous day for UNH, a graduation ceremony unlike any other. Just why I will announce in a few minutes. 

When you arrived as eager, inquisitive first-year students, you were immediately told to turn off lights when you left a room, power down computers when you departed for winter break, ride the bus, and compost your uneaten food from the dining halls. 

Beyond good habits, what did this achieve? Let me tell you: 

• Since 2006, you saved more than $100,000 in energy and water costs during four rounds of the Student Energy Waste Watch Challenge competition in our campus housing.

• Each time you hopped on the WildCat transit bus to Dover or Portsmouth, it was powered by alternative fuels. Since 2005, WildCat Transit provided more than 4.2 million trips. That amounted to more than 15 million miles of private vehicle driving avoided and an estimated 5,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that were not emitted. 

• Since summer 2005, you have contributed almost 500 tons of food scraps that were composted at Kingman Farm. That’s about 17,500 pounds each month. That’s great—although I do wonder why you didn’t clean your plates given the great food we have in the dining halls.

• You have been among the 3,100 students from all academic disciplines presenting scholarly and creative research at our annual Undergraduate Research Conference in the last four years. Many of those projects focused on sustainability – from marketing green buildings to climate action planning to issues of gender and equality, poverty and opportunity, access to healthcare and healthy foods, and much more. 

• And some of you have taken part in the first-in-the-nation Dual Major in EcoGastronomy, a program combining sustainable agriculture, hospitality management, and nutrition. Sustainability is a core value at the University of New Hampshire and all of you have demonstrated your commitment to making the world a healthier place in which to live. This is your commencement. It is only fitting that we make your final send off as green as possible. 

• By choosing recycled paper to print the invitations and program for this event, we saved 34 trees. Even the script I have in front of me was printed on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Though I should point out that the speech itself has not been recycled—at least not yet.

• If you are enjoying food and beverages from the dining tent, please be sure to dispose of them properly. We have recycling and compost stations set up. Your half-eaten cookie may help grow the food we serve in the dining hall next fall. 

• While you were a student here, UNH invested in retrofit sustainability projects across the campus, including high efficiency lighting, heating and cooling control systems, window upgrades, and conversion of electric clothes dryers to natural gas dryers in residence halls. We are also transitioning our entire fleet of diesel vehicles to the use of low sulfur B20 biodiesel. 

• Through the use of greener cleaning products, UNH Housekeeping has decreased the amount of cleaning products by approximately 50 percent in the past 15 years - a significant reduction in chemical use, providing a cleaner, safer environment for everyone who enters and uses our buildings.

• So, here we are finally at Commencement. Let’s make your last act at UNH be a green one. If you don’t need your graduation robe after today, drop it in the designated box on your way out, so that it can be reused next year. Hang on to your cap and tassel, though. They make great mementoes!

Along with your incredible achievements as UNH graduates, we have one more thing to celebrate here today. In just a moment, we will confirm that the 2009 UNH Commencement Ceremony is actually being powered by . . . garbage—or, more precisely, with the landfill gas that comes from garbage. 

In cooperation with Waste Management of New Hampshire, UNH officially began construction on the EcoLine project in 2007. Coming from Waste Management’s Turnkey facility in Rochester, landfill gas will soon replace commercial natural gas as the primary fuel in UNH’s cogeneration plant. A processing plant at Turnkey purifies the gas and sends it 12.7 miles through an underground pipeline directly to our campus. This accomplishment has been years in the making and UNH is generating energy with what you have been throwing out over the last four years. Anything organic that you haven’t composted—apple cores, banana peels, etcetera—is helping to produce purified landfill gas to power our turbines.

Al Davis of Waste Management is waiting for us now out in Rochester. He is going to confirm that we are indeed operating on trash….. 

Let’s generate a little natural energy of our own and see if we can make enough noise that Al can hear us. Clap your hands…

President Huddleston
Al? Al? Are you there? Can you hear us?

Alan Davis, Waste Management Turnkey Landfill Manager
Mark! Loud and clear. It’s great to be with you!

President Huddleston
Al, can you confirm for us that today, this ceremony is running on landfill gas?

Alan Davis
You bet! We’ve always known UNH has great energy. Now you’ve got clean energy. President Huddleston, Class of 2009, you’ve made history. Congratulations from Waste Management and good luck to you all! Give yourselves a big round of applause…

President Huddleston
Congratulations everyone – you are indeed graduating on a momentous day and…not in a barn! Let’s keep this phenomenal energy going as we celebrate your achievements today. 

Green is great, but it is not commencement without you, our graduates. I would now like to introduce Mr. Ed Dupont, Chair of the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees, who will say a few words to you.