The Falcon   |   Volume 83, Issue 53

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New caps, gowns out of bottles

The senior class of 2011 will collect its diplomas while wearing “green” caps and gowns made of recycled materials. For every cap and gown sold, 25 cents will be donated to on-campus sustainability.

The senior class of 2011 will collect its diplomas while wearing “green” caps and gowns made of recycled materials. For every cap and gown sold, 25 cents will be donated to on-campus sustainability.
Photo credit: HALEY LIBAK/The Falcon.

Graduation regalia made of recycled materials, same cost


Published: June 1 2011

Next Sunday, approximately 850 Seattle Pacific graduates will don a cap and gown and march onto Safeco Field, said Annette Rendahl, Student Academic Services counselor.

Yet, at this year’s commencement, the regalia worn by graduates will do more than make them look collegiate: Now, it will also help save the environment.

“The decision to use recycled material gowns is another great step in our efforts to care for God’s great creation,” said Les Steele, vice president for Academic Affairs.

This year, the SPU Bookstore signed a contract with Oak Hall Cap and Gown’s GreenWeaver program, which offers regalia made from recycled plastic bottles, said 2008 alumna Brittany Ford, the bookstore’s assistant manager.

In the GreenWeaver program, each gown is made with an average of 23 recycled plastic bottles. By wearing recycled robes, this year’s walking graduates can keep up to 19,550 plastic bottles out of landfills.

The GreenWeaver program not only changed the gown material, which is now made from fabric spun from molten plastic pellets, it also changed the manufacturing process, according to a press release from Barnes and Noble. The new process reduced over 54 percent of carbon dioxide gas emissions, and using thermal recycled energy rather than petroleum in the manufacturing process saved over 52 percent in energy use, the press release said.

Ford said the price and quality of the eco-friendly caps and gowns was comparable to regular ones used in previous years, so SPU Bookstore employees thought students would be happier spending that money on eco-friendly products that raise awareness of environmental preservation.

Beyond awareness, sustainability is the Christian commitment to people and the environment, Steele said.

Karen DiScala, communications manager for Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, said in a phone interview that B&N College Booksellers help their college partners, including SPU, fulfill this commitment with many eco-friendly and recyclable products, such as e-books, reusable mugs and organic food.

However, some, such as senior Chris Kyle, said they did not see any direct benefits to students from the GreenWeaver program.

“I’m pretty confident that I can easily find all of these (cap and gown packages) for half the price,” Kyle said. “I’d have bought them cheaper, because I don’t want to pay this much money for something that is a one-time use.”

To undergraduate students who have more than one major or who have earned honor cords, the package of cap, gown, tassels and honor cords could cost more than $80.

Kyle and senior Sarah Long said they would not mind wearing rented gowns if they available from the bookstore.

In response to this suggestion, however, Ford said it might not be a legitimate idea to collect used gowns from students after commencement, as many students leave immediately after the ceremony ends.

“Also, the rentable gowns are made of higher, quality material, so it actually costs more to rent,” Ford said.

Now, though, students can recycle their gowns after commencement by placing them in the collection boxes, according to the GreenWeaver fact sheet provided by Oak Hall.

In addition, for every green gown purchased, Oak Hall will donate 25 cents to the college’s on-campus sustainability.

“I wish we had been told about the good impact of this green gown project,” Kyle said. “(Then) I wouldn’t have been against the whole situation, because I did find it expensive.”

Having eco-friendly caps and gowns is just one step toward SPU’s larger environmental goals, Steele said.

“We cannot spread the word of all concrete decisions,” he said, “but every small change counts.”

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