As a photographer who has done the graduation photos for numerous UCF graduates, my clients often ask if I could capture the popular confetti blown shot (see image below for example). In past years, I admit to complying to their requests. It is a tough shot to take, but, what is even tougher, is the impact that glitter and confetti have on the environment. A photo that takes less than five seconds to capture, if you’re lucky enough to get it on the first try, is also one that has negative and long-lasting effects. Most glitter and confetti products are made from plastic, which makes them a contributor to the growing problem of microplastics in the environment.
After learning about how harmful generic, store-bought glitters and confetti are on the environment, I decided to tell my clients that this popular photo is a shot I cannot take unless done with an alternative that does not put the environment at-risk. I also try to take these moments as educational opportunities to teach other students about how even tiny flecks of plastic can cause major damage to ecosystems.
There are many alternatives to still capture the same celebration themed photo. Here at UCF, the Student Government Association offers free biodegradable confetti, or Ecofetti, around graduation time every year for students.
There are other places online such as Amazon to order Ecofetti and other forms of biodegradable confetti. Other alternatives include rose petals, naturally dyed rice, or even hole-punching fallen leaves. For more experienced photo editors, photoshopping the effect in photos is also an option!
Although it’s easy to find alternatives to glitter and confetti, sometimes it’s much harder to get everyone on board. As aforementioned, educating your peers is a great way to continue trying to resolve this problem. Another way to help keep our campus grounds healthy is to start and participate in clean-up events!
Charles Isaac, a photographer and student at UCF, created an event in partnership with the Photography Club at UCF to help out with the litter around campus. Charles says he was browsing an online forum for UCF when he noticed someone had posted a picture of the confetti litter floating in the Reflection Pond. The user was calling attention to the fact that no one was cleaning it up. His response was guilt, “Since I had a grad photo shoot the previous day, I felt partially responsible for the mess.” His second response was to take action and ask for help. The event took place on a Saturday morning, starting at the Reflection Pond, the location of the highest concentration of graduation photoshoot related litter. Charles created the event on Facebook in order to organize the clean-up, decide who was going to bring what supplies, and give updates more reliably. “The more the merrier!” he said, “Nothing I can’t handle with a small team.”
Thanks to Charles, the Photography Club at UCF will move forward each semester hosting campus wide clean-up events. In addition to clean-ups, the club will make efforts to educate and urge its members to choose environmentally friendly alternatives.
Graduation photoshoots are about celebrating your accomplishments and the time you’ve spent at UCF. There are numerous ways to do this without soiling the same ground you’re celebrating on. Remember that the best way to combat the issue of glitter and confetti trash is to educate your peers, use environmentally friendly alternatives, and to be a part of the cleanup! Glitter is litter.