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Green graduation gowns

Jenna Johnson

Environmental friendliness is sooo in style right now. So much so that Harper College, located just outside Chicago, has switched to green graduation gowns.

The actual gowns are still official Harper blue. But once thrown away, these new robes will biodegrade within a year. Yeah, that kind of green.

gradgown 002.jpgBut what if it rains on graduation day? What if you get a really sweaty senior? Can these eco-friendly gowns endure a post-graduation party?

The gowns (modeled in the photo by Harper grad Catherine Camastro) are part of Josten's The Elements Collection. The manufacturer promises that they look and feel just like traditional graduation gowns. They can withstand rain, and the biodegrading process doesn't start until the gown is buried in soil. They're made of a natural fiber that comes from renewable, managed forests. Plus the zipper is made of recycled plastic. Even the packaging is eco-friendly.

The college's old gowns? Not so earth-friendly, explains Maria Moten, dean of enrollment services and co-chair of the graduation committee.

The college used to rent gowns that were collected after the ceremony and dry-cleaned.

"Each time those were used, they had to be cleaned, pressed, transported by a truck and wrapped in plastic bags. All of that used an enormous amount of fuel and chemicals," Moten said.

The new gowns were approved by Harper's Green Committee, which is responsible for making campus more eco-friendly. Other planet-loving practices the college has undertaken: Reducing the amount of energy and water used, supporting a student environmental club, using green cleaning products and offering a host of environmental courses.

Harper isn't the only college going green on graduation day. Graduates of Hamilton College in New York will sport "comfortable 'greenweaver' regalia" made from recycled plastic bottles. Each gown is made from about 23 plastic bottles that might otherwise have landed in a landfill.

Is your college also greening up graduation? Let me know in the comments section.

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By Jenna Johnson  |  March 31, 2010; 4:05 PM ET
Categories:  News Overload  | Tags: Harper College  
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Not to burst their bubble, but if most of these are truly thrown away they'll likely end up in a landfill where they will most certainly NOT biodegrade. At least not within a year.

Posted by: jw703 | March 31, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

"Forest products"? So they're made of paper, right?

Plenty of fuel and chemicals involved in making paper. And they're now making a new batch of gowns every year. Maybe they should recalculate this.

Posted by: corco02az | April 1, 2010 6:57 AM | Report abuse

I had to buy one of those single-use graduation gowns when I graduated from college in 1998. That thing cost me a lot of money, which I had no choice but to spend, and now I have no use for it. It's just stuffed into a box in my house.

The manufacturers don't make as much money renting as compared to selling these single-use gowns. That's the whole 'green' issue here!!!!

Posted by: momof20yo | April 1, 2010 7:39 AM | Report abuse

Calling "disposable" gowns environmentally friendly sounds kind of stupid.

How about recycling the things?

Posted by: spamsux1 | April 1, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me that would be much greener to allow students to wear what they like and forget the gowns all together. That's what my college did.

I did have to buy a single use gown for my high school graduation, even though my sister had graduated 5 years before and still had hers. So momof20yo is certainly right about that "green".

Posted by: mimsi | April 1, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

My school made the gown optional. (Wise move, since it was somewhere that by May had a really hot summer and had their Commencement outdoors.) I personally liked this idea; some people showed up in tank tops and jeans but most people put some real thought and personality into their outfits and still looked nice even if they weren't wearing the traditional gown.

Posted by: | April 1, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

One of my kids had those disposable gowns for their high school graduation. They smelled like vinegar. The traditional rent 'em/turn them back in and re-use them is much more green.

Posted by: MplsMom | April 1, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

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