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SMC switches to eco-friendly graduation gowns

| Friday, May 16, 2014

In 2010, a commencement speech by marine biologist Sylvia Earle inspired the use of environmentally-friendly graduation caps and gowns. More eco-friendly adjustments will be incorporated into this year’s Saint Mary’s class regalia, executive assistant to the president Susan Dampeer said. 

“We are very pleased with the new robes and hoods — they are both environmentally friendly and beautiful,” Dampeer said. 

This will be the first time Balfour has provided caps and gowns for the College, although the the two have had a partnership for 50 years, Balfour representative Edward O’Neil said. Balfour and partner Oak Hall Cap & Gown also supply gowns for Notre Dame and Holy Cross College, O’Neil said. 

“Previous gowns were made from unfriendly acetate, which is not recycled nor recyclable,” he said. “Even rentals have a large carbon footprint because of much higher transportation costs, plus the toxicity of dry cleaning fluid.”

According to the Oak Hall website, both carbon dioxide gas emissions and petroleum usage are reduced by more than 50 percent through the manufacturing process. The process begins when processed plastic bottles are broken into flakes and chips to be melted down and reformed into a filament yarn, which is then dyed and used to weave the GreenWeaver gowns, the website said. 

The plastic bags and boxes which transport the gowns are also made from recycled cardboard, the website said. Unwanted gowns can be turned in to be recycled after graduation, O’Neil said. 

“GreenWeaver gowns are manufactured from recovered water bottles, approximately 23 per gown, and can be again recycled afterward,” O’Neil said. 

More than 41 million water bottles have been recycled as a result of the GreenWeaver gowns, O’Neil said. Using recycled water bottles provides not only a “green” gown alternative but also gives a gown a more luxurious feel and look than in the past, O’Neil said. 

“Isn’t it all of our responsibilities to keep the earth more as God created it and maintain a small carbon footprint, while at the same time recognizing and celebrating human achievement?” O’Neil said.

Dampeer said the College is committed indefinitely to using environmentally-friendly regalia for future commencements. 

More information about the new gowns can be found at www.oakhalli.com

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About Kathryn Marshall

Kathryn Marshall, Saint Mary's College '17, is a Biology and Humanistic Studies double major. Follow Kathryn on Twitter @kmarshallSMC

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