What starts with grad photos could change the world — and the environment

Brianna Stone

A picture is not only worth a thousand words, but can also be worth a thousand pieces of glitter confetti on the ground.

With commencement right around the corner, graduation photo-taking season is in full effect. However, some of the popular poses, such as throwing confetti, could leave a mess behind on campus and negatively impact the environment.

Last year some scientists said glitter, also known as microplastics, should be banned because of its negative environmental impact. According to the National Ocean Service, microplastics are small plastic pieces, less than five millimeters long, that can be harmful to the ocean and aquatic life. The UK  and U.S.  have both enacted regulations or bans on certain types of microplastics because of pollution.

At UT, throwing or blowing confetti is a popular graduation photo pose, particularly in front of the blue door of the School of Architecture building. While UT has not actively discouraged students from using glitter and does not have formal regulations in place, the University said it is used to cleaning up after celebrations.

“Landscape services is fairly custom to cleaning up,” University spokesperson Laurie Lentz said. “Commencement is a very happy event, so they understand there will be things like confetti related to celebration to clean up.”

Nidi Nizam, a 2015 UT alumnus and local photographer, said she keeps the environment in mind when taking photos of clients.

“I don’t typically use confetti,” Nizam said. “I’m very consciously aware (of the environment) and if I do see confetti on the ground, sometimes we reuse it instead of having a client open a new bag of confetti.”

Nizam said instead of using props, such as confetti, she prefers to incorporate nature into her photos.

“The campus is a really good location and has a lot of natural green environment,” Nizam said.

However, there is a way for students to achieve the confetti glitter aesthetic in their photos without actually using it. Irma Levrie, a Texas State public relations senior, came up with the alternative of using Photoshop to add fake confetti.

On April 12, Levrie tweeted a short video tutorial of how to achieve this environmentally friendly glitter photo. Since then the tweet has gone viral, gaining nearly 25,000 views. 

“I would love to see our environment flourish long after I’m gone, and it’s the little things I can do to not leave a huge carbon footprint,” Levrie said. “Think about the future and what we are leaving behind.”

Levrie said at Texas State, the university posted several signs warning of the negative environmental impact of glitter.

Other popular UT graduation photos include lying in flower beds, standing in the Littlefield fountain or even popping champagne bottles in the fountain. Lentz said typically spilled champagne in the fountain is not an issue unless there is coloring or debris.

“We want people to enjoy themselves and be safe,” Lentz said. “Our staff are used to dealing with big events and cleaning up after.”