Greeks Going Green aims to make homecoming eco-friendly

Monday, September 15, 2008 | 8:46 p.m. CDT; updated 2:29 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Members of Kappa Delta sorority, Alpha Gamma Sigma fraternity and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity pomp sets for their Homecoming skit. The sorority and fraternity members work on the sets in the basement of an unoccupied fraternity house owned by Alpha Gamma Sigma in the early hours of Oct. 13, 2007. Pomping involves taking a piece of colored tissue paper, rolling it around a marker, dipping it in "pomp," a flour-based glue, and adhering the paper to plywood boards that have been painted to guide the pomping.

COLUMBIA — Homecoming - an MU tradition in its 97th year - will be a little greener this year to reduce waste, especially from the paper used in pomping.

Pomping is a method by which many fraternities and sororities use tissue paper to decorate wooden boards, mostly for for house decorations during homecoming.


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In the past three years, the maximum amount of pomp boards a house could use has been cut in half from 32 to 16.

"This year, we have put a maximum limit of 75 percent traditional pomp," said MU student Maggie Brown, one of three homecoming tri-directors overseeing homecoming committees.

And if a chapter wants, they don't have to use any pomp at all.

"Pomping is not a requirement," Brown said.

In another eco-friendly step, the homecoming tri-directors are researching options for a recycling program for the decorative materials, Brown said.

The directors committee decided to reduce the total board space decorated - one of the first steps in this year's green movement - after receiving feedback from many Greek chapter presidents who said they wanted to reduce pomping.

The committee has also heard concerns about the cost and time pomping involves, Brown said. Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars are spent every year. Chapters have already begun pomping for this year's homecoming on Oct. 25.

"What I would love to see is the Greek community taking those hours and the effort previously spent pomping and spend it doing service activities like helping out others and the environment, which is what homecoming is really all about," said Sam Urkov, former president and founding member of Greeks Going Green, an MU organization for green-minded fraternity and sorority members.

"We want to continue to build on the MU tradition that it is so well-known for," said Urkov, whose organization has received some credit for the homecoming changes.

The circumstance of pomp

The most time-intensive part of preparing for homecoming is the cutting, folding, gluing and applying of the thousands of pieces of paper called pomp.

"Last year, the issue of reducing the amount of material used in creating skit backdrops and other campus decorations was definitely on our plates, but now it is in the forefront of our goals," Urkov said.

Greeks Going Green was formed in the fall of 2007 because recycling is not difficult, Urkov said, and he wanted to organize a way to get MU's Greek community on board.

"I saw the Greek community, which is a huge part of the MU community, and how many bottles, cups and other recyclable materials that were being used and could be recycled," Urkov said.

Pomp tissue paper itself can be recycled, but it's a sticky challenge because the house decoration boards are a combination of tissue paper, homemade glue and wood.

"The process to collect, process and separate, it is hard," said Steve Burdic, MU's campus solid waste and recycling coordinator.

Recent attention to the green movement has sparked interest in what can or cannot be recycled, and Burdic said he's willing to help the Greek community create a workable recycling solution.

A history of change

This is not the first time homecoming has changed. In the late '90s, all parade floats were traditionally pomped. The Mizzou Alumni Association and Homecoming Steering Committee banned traditional pomping for floats because of the time, effort and money organizations were putting into it, Brown said.

Then, after completely canceling the parade one year, the Greek community and other campus organizations fought to bring the parade back. But it was agreed that the parade would only continue if no traditional pomps were used, Brown said.

"Every year is a balance" between preserving homecoming traditions and responding to change, said Todd McCubbin, associate vice chancellor of alumni relations and executive director of the Mizzou Alumni Association.

McCubbin also said that campus decorations are a tradition with social value for the community.

"Pomping is part of homecoming that is a great tradition, so each year we evaluate the process and tweak it so that it continues to be rewarding and fun for everyone involved," he said.

Rewarding green-ness

For now, though, the judging of competitions is based on creativity, skit story lines, and overall visual and design appeal based on adherence to theme. The backdrops that are most immaculately decorated with pomp have generally been judged the highest in the past.

This might suggest that the more pomp used, the better the entry will place in the competition. The understanding that chapters can place well with less pomp has been slow to catch on.

"The idea that houses must pomp more to win is fading away," McCubbin said. "It's a misnomer. Recently, houses have placed and done well with no pomp at all."

Urkov said Greeks Going Green will continue to research ways to make homecoming and daily Greek life more eco-friendly.

There are about 200 members of Greeks Going Green, which include members of an executive council, Greek chapter delegates and other students that simply join to support the mission. MU Greeks Going Green is partnered with the national Greeks Going Green movement, which is active at over 11 college campuses nationwide.

"The more data we collect, the more effective we can be," Urkov said. "How many trees could we save? Questions like this can be answered as we move forward."


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Ryan Pulkrabek September 18, 2008 | 11:44 a.m.

As Rene Descartes advises in his Discourse on Methods, it is better to go slow and steady in the right direction than to sprint astray. Greeks Going Green is moving slow and steady in the right direction by aiming to make incremental gains each year, as we solidify our foundation as an organization in the Greek community. Our aim this year is to make a difference in the homecoming effort by addressing the recycling need gaps in each of the events. Through trial and error and planning with the Homecoming Steering Committee, we will aim to solidify sustainability into the homecoming tradition.
---Ryan Pulkrabek, Greeks Going Green, President

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