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Otis College Hosts 2019 AICAD Symposium on Diversity and Inclusion, and Includes Several Sustainable Touches

2019 AICAD Symposium at Otis College
The usual swag bags were eschewed in favor of sustainable tools that will be handy during the annual conference. 
Anna Raya

Otis College of Art and Design has the honor of hosting the 2019 AICAD Symposium, “Include Me: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,” which is happening November 7-9 on the Elaine and Bram Goldsmith campus. Members of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design are convening to explore and share values, pedagogies, research, challenges, and successes, bringing students, faculty, and staff together in sometimes difficult conversations regarding institutional climates and ways to develop an inclusive vision for high quality art and design education. Art and design colleges are educating an increasingly diverse, changing, and international student population, and calls to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion on AICAD campuses have come from many internal and external constituencies. 

As part of hosting this important assembly of art and design educators, Otis College has made stringent efforts to adhere to its commitment to sustainability, one that has long been evident in the LEED-certified buildings on campus, the myriad green course offerings in the syllabus, and even the water refill stations located next to every bathroom. Interim Provost Kim Russo spearheaded the College’s green efforts for the symposium, starting with the gifts being given to each AICAD attendee, and the badges everyone will be wearing. “I’m always disturbed by the amount of plastic used for conference badges and swag. Plastic is cheap and easy, but it contributes to the bigger problem of plastic pollution, which in the end costs us all much, much more,” says Russo. “I wanted to find alternatives that were more sustainable, and that symposium participants would want to keep and use long after their few days here.”

Going green in these outward-facing ways required a little more effort for Russo and her team, but the results prove the lasting impact such changes can make. Here are some highlights of what has been done.

2019 AICAD Symposium Sustainable Guest Gifts

A. The notebook, the cover of which was designed in-house by the Otis College printmaking team, is made with recycled paper.

B. The pencil was created by a company called Sprout, which only uses PEFC- (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) or FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood. It is lead-free, non-toxic, biodegradable, and made using sustainable production methods. At the end of the pencil is a capsule filled with seeds, which can be planted at any point during the pencil’s lifespan. The name of the plant the seeds are of is written on the pencil.

C. AICAD guests can use the bamboo cutlery during symposium meal breaks.

D. The stainless steel bottle is insulated with copper, and will work at keeping beverages hot or cold. They are meant to be used at the water-refilling stations located next to all campus restrooms.

2019 AICAD Symposium badgeE. The badge was designed and created in-house in a joint effort by the Communications and Marketing and Technical Support Services departments at Otis College. “We wanted to avoid using plastic or anything that would be used once and then end up in a landfill,” says creative director Sheharazad Fleming, who sourced recycled paper from the Mohawk Via paper line (in 120 pound cover, Kraft with a vellum finish), which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance Program for FSC standards, and lanyards that were made of 100% undyed cotton. “We intentionally left the lanyards unprinted and unbranded, so that they could be re-used without being ‘dated,’” Fleming says.

F. In addition to the bamboo cutlery set, AICAD guests also received a stainless steel, resuable drinking straw and cleaning brush.

G. The name cards that front the badges were designed by graphic designer Becca Todd, and laser-printed in-house on sustainably-sourced maple wood by Andrew Armstrong, director of technical support services, and his team.

Wrapping the guest swag is a red band from a company called Grafiti. It is made of cooking-grade silicone, which is heat-, cold-, chemical-, and UV-resistant, making for limitless re-use options. 

“I wanted Otis College to be an influencer—a model—for how we can think differently about the choices we make,” Russo says. “I’m grateful to Technical Support Services, Communications and Marketing, and the Provost’s Office staff for their collaboration and shared vision—this idea would not have been possible without them.”

Photos by Sheharazad Fleming and Becca Todd.