Every year, millions of students graduate from high school and college with the same traditional process: put on cap and gown, throw the cap in the air, then stuff the gown in a closet somewhere.
While it's unlikely that many of these gowns will make it to a landfill for sentimental reasons, they are typically made with petroleum-based polyester. But some companies are reinventing tradition with gowns made of recycled plastic bottles.
And if just 100,000 students wore these gowns on graduation day, 2.3 million plastic bottles out would be saved from the landfill.
Virginia-based Oak Hall Cap and Gown manufactures the GreenWeaver gown. It takes 23 bottles to make a gown, and they are made using entirely recycled material.
But that's not the only benefit. According to an Associated Press article, the gowns have been rated softer and more breathable than standard polyester gowns.
GreenWeaver gowns are being used for about 100 of Oak Hill's client schools, although the company still offers traditional gowns which are less expensive.
While GreenWeaver gowns are made of recycled plastic, there are questions about their recyclability since many recycling programs only accept plastics in bottle form. However, grads that are concerned with gown disposal do have another option.
Enter the Elements Collection by Minnesota-based Jostens, which are made from natural wood fiber that can decompose in soil.
While neither of these gowns address the issue of recycling, they do both utilize sustainable material in manufacturing. Not bad for a garment that gets 90 minutes of use during its entire life.