Going Green with Graduations
As more businesses and industries focus on sustainability efforts, the green trend is also emerging in multiple ways within higher education, including graduations. As the traditional graduation season winds down, one noticeable trend gaining attention is eco-friendly caps and gowns. The student interest/market for these environmentally-friendly garments has risen in recent years, despite the potential price difference when compared to its polyester counterparts. These “green” gowns are typically made from recycled plastic bottles or wood pulp. Sounds comfy, huh? However, students attest that these gowns are in fact comfortable enough to wear for a few hours.
Several companies (Oak Hall Cap & Gown, Jostens, and Willsie Cap and Gown) are leveraging this green graduation trend, most notably providers of the eco-friendly attire. Oak Hall’s GreenWeaver gown incorporates fabric spun from molten plastic pellets. The GreenGown sold by Willsie can be recycled and reused once the student is finished with it. Customers have the option of sending the gown back to a specified recycling center where the fabric will then be reused by the company. The gowns from Jostens’ Elements Collection are exclusively made from wood fiber that is “sustainably-harvested” from North American forests. An executive with Jostens says that the demand for these gowns has increased. This trend is not fading away anytime soon and businesses realize this.
In addition to caps and gowns, tassels and honor cords are also going green. They can be purchased online made from 100% natural cotton yarn. Diploma frames are also being constructed from eco-friendly materials. The University of Oregon’s “Duck Store” sells a greener framing option with its lithograph diploma frame ($172.95), which is constructed from “earth friendly moulding, made from 80% Post-consumer material.” While commencement attire and diploma frames are following the ecological movement, the ceremonies themselves are becoming more environmentally-friendly too.
Some universities have made the effort to produce more sustainable commencement festivities. Johns Hopkins University implemented multiple green initiatives at its 2011 spring graduation ceremony. The university decided to use minimal printed materials and print the programs on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Students could either purchase or rent recyclable caps and gowns. Local caterers focused on “green practices” provided the food and compostable dinnerware and biodegradable bottles of water were used.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, located in Troy, NY, also conducted a more environmentally responsible ceremony. Besides opting for the eco-friendly caps and gowns from Oak Hall, RPI abstained from using helium balloons since helium is a non-renewable resource. Additionally, RPI offered to transport guests from parking facilities to events via 14 hybrid Capital District Transportation Authority buses. The annual commencement dinner featured local food and fair trade certified coffee.
Like many other industries, higher education embraces the notion of “going green” on campus, and graduations are just one milestone occasion open to sustainable possibilities.
Photo by Nazareth College, used under a Creative Commons license.