Graduating students at Duke University's commencement exercises in May will be wearing green for the special occasion. The caps and gowns may appear black in color, but the apparel is made from material produced from recycled plastic bottles.
Jim Wilkerson, the director of Duke Stores and the person responsible for outfitting the graduates, said this effort "is representative of what the university is doing as a whole."
“Everyone on campus, it seems, wants to do what they can to be more environmentally responsible,” Wilkerson said. “When we were approached with this opportunity to purchase caps and gowns made from recycled materials, and we were satisfied that the quality of the garments would not be compromised, it was an easy decision.”
Each cap and gown, priced $2-3 more than the old ones, will keep 23 used plastic bottles from winding up in landfills. If half of the approximated 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students receiving diplomas were to participate in commencement exercises, more than 50,000 bottles would be saved from landfills. The amount of energy used in manufacturing fabric from plastic instead of virgin polyester will be reduced, as well as the carbon dioxide emissions.
Duke's long-standing provider for graduation apparel, Oak Hall Cap & Gown Company of Salem, Va., has pledged to contribute 25 cents for each gown sold to a campus environmental group designated by the university. All the gowns will be green, with the exception of Ph.D. regalia, which is rented.
“College students and campuses are at the forefront of environmental conscience and green habits,” said Joseph D’Angelo, president of Oak Hall. “When we started seeing such campus trends as biodegradable utensils, we felt developing an environmentally friendly gown was the right thing to do for students, colleges and universities and our planet.”
Students who don't want to keep their gowns will be able to recycle them after graduation. Collection boxes will be placed around campus, and the gowns collected will be turned into a new product, most likely filler for pillows.