A new and exciting twist has been added to graduation regalia this year. The caps and gowns that the bachelors and master’s degree candidates will wear will be made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, called GreenWeaver gowns.
The caps and gowns are only four dollars more than in previous years, but this appears to still be an economic deterrent to some students. “I am still going to borrow a cap and gown from someone who graduated recently,” senior Devin Denny said. Despite his choice not to purchase the new caps and gowns, Denny nevertheless expressed that he believed the switch to be a good idea.
Rochester Bookstore Manager Maria Frente and Conference and Events Coordinator Erica Strawbridge began discussing the idea of making the switch to the GreenWeaver caps and gowns a year ago and made the final decision this past September.
“We feel these gowns fit in with the University’s “green” mission, so this is just another step towards that goal,” Strawbridge said. “We know that this is a very important issue to the students as well.”
The fabric used to make the caps and gowns is spun from molten plastic pellets and each gown is made from an average of 23 plastic bottles. That means that with over 1,500 gowns sold at the University Bookstore each graduation season, more than 34,500 bottles will most likely be recycled.
“Sustainability is so important in today’s world. It is an incredibly positive move for the University to embrace sustainable practices,” senior and Grassroots member Alexis Ginsberg said. “Both Grassroots and the Student Sustainability Committee have worked very hard to implement some environmentally friendly university traditions, and it is great to see the faculty and staff show the importance of sustainability.”
As of March 1, 2010, 3.5 million plastic bottles were reclaimed from landfills to produce these caps and gowns. By switching to the production of GreenWeaver caps and gowns, carbon dioxide gas emissions are reduced by 54.6 percent in the process of manufacturing fabric from plastic versus polyester.Thermal recycled energy is used in the production of these caps and gowns and saves energy use by 52.6 percent over petroleum.
“I’m a little worried that they will smell funky, but other than that I like the idea,” senior Ezra Mechaber said. The size labels of the caps and gowns will be stamped in soy ink, the plastic bags that they are stored in will be made from recycled plastic and their shipping cartons will be made from recycled cardboard. If students do not wish to keep their regalia beyond commencement, they can drop it off at the bookstore to be recycled. It seems there will be an added comfort bonus as well.
“Not only are they better for the environment, but the fabric actually feels softer and more comfortable than what we’ve used for previous commencement ceremonies,” Frente said.
The gowns are made by Oak Hall Cap & Gown and look almost identical in color and fit to the traditional polyester material. Oak and Hall will make a donation to an on-campus sustainability program of the University’s choice for every gown purchased. The caps and gowns will be available at the UR Bookstore from March 25 through commencement.
Rosenthal is a member of
the class of 2012.