Green Graduation

New eco-friendly commencement gowns made from recycled water bottles

Above: (Left to right) Sasha Budd ’11, Octavia Rodney ’11, Marilena Austin ’11, Amanda Roberts ’11, Foluke Beveridge ’11, and Carl Coffey ’11 celebrate in their new eco-friendly commencement gowns on the front lawn.

When members of Randolph’s Class of 2011 walk across the stage to receive their diplomas next month, the graduates will wear a new type of commencement gown made from recycled plastic bottles. The eco-friendly gowns are the latest effort by the College to help the environment.

Oak Hall Cap & Gown in Salem, Virginia, has supplied gowns to the College for years. The company recently created the GreenWeaver, a gown made from an average of 23 post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The unique process involves shredding the bottles into flakes, melting the flakes into beads, and converting the beads into yarn. The yarn is then dyed and woven to produce a fabric that looks and feels similar to polyester.

Left to Right: shredded flakes of plastic from bottles, beads, and yarn.
(Left to Right) shredded flakes of plastic from bottles, beads, and yarn.

“As an institution, we are committed to creating a culture of sustainability through our curriculum, administration, and facilities management policies,” said Sarah Swager, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “We are delighted to have this environmentally conscious gown available to us.”

Students from about 150 schools nationwide will wear the gowns this spring during commencement ceremonies and save about seven million plastic bottles from being dumped into landfills, according to Oak Hall estimates.

The switch to GreenWeaver gowns was a small way Randolph College could make a difference and take advantage of a unique product. “The best alternative would be to move away from having plastic bottles on campus at all. However, I believe that by buying those ‘greener’ gowns, the College is showing its interest in creating an environmentally sustainable campus,” said Ludovic Lemaitre ’11, an environmental science major.

Karin Warren, Randolph’s Herzog Family Chair of Environmental Studies, said the switch to a more environmentally friendly gown sets a good example for students. “Using commencement gowns made from recycled plastic bottles is a way to honor our graduates and also sends a message they can take with them into their professional and personal lives—that we can rethink waste and consider our actions—large and small—in the pursuit of a more sustainable world,” she said.