Gowns go green for graduation

By Cathleen Leitch

Graduation is approaching after the weight of final papers and tests has passed. But tomorrow, the seniors can wear their black, recycled gowns.

As of last year, Rider’s Lawrenceville campus began to use recycled graduation gowns instead of new material gowns. Each gown is made from 23 plastic bottles taken from landfills around the country, according to Oak Hall Cap & Gown.

“Vendors that provide the caps and gowns were starting to promote that they now have different types of sustainable gowns,” said Beverly Braddock, Special Events and Projects Manager at Rider. “I thought that was a great idea, so we switched over to them last year.”

Oak Hall Cap & Gown designed the GreenWeaver line in April 2009 and Braddock heard about the innovative line at a conference that summer. Only 5 percent of colleges and universities support the line and around 300,000 graduates nationwide will wear recycled gowns this May.

The gowns are slightly more expensive, but the Energy Sustainability Steering Committee (ESSC) has funded the difference in price for the past two years.

“The use of graduation gowns made from a recycled material such as water bottles supports our mission in decreasing waste at Rider,” said Melissa Greenberg, Rider’s Sustainability Coordination Manager. “When our group is approached to assist in funding an item like this, we agree to do so when funds are available. This is a great alternative to graduation gowns made from new materials.”

Even though the price is higher, so is the quality. One worry was that because the gowns were made of plastic they would be hot and uncomfortable, but it’s just the opposite. These gowns are lighter, softer and wear well.

One student feels this is a great initiative, but is concerned with breathability.

“Knowing that my gown is made of recycled plastic is a good feeling to know we helped the environment,” senior Stephanie Trabold said. “It would also be a nice perk if they are breathable; I don’t want to have to sit in 80-degree weather and not feel a breeze through my robe.”

The administration has been attempting to spread the word about the gowns, but many students are still unaware. During Earth Day, the Bronc was seen styling a cap and gown while holding a representative pyramid of water bottles. Advertisements can also be found on the website, Facebook page and in the commencement booklet.

“I think there is a growing population of students who definitely do care,” Braddock said.

Students should be aware because not only has GreenWeaver removed over 7 million water bottles from landfills, but they also gave back to Rider. The money donated by the line goes directly to a sustainability organization of the school’s choice.

“For every gown purchased they give a donation. Last year we actually got back a little over $300 and we gave it back to ESSC.” Braddock said.

Rider is becoming a greener school and using recycled gowns is just one more way the school is creating change for the environment.

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