Duke grads to don 'green' caps, gowns

Posted January 19, 2011 1:35 p.m. EST
Updated January 19, 2011 1:39 p.m. EST

— Duke University students will wear caps and gowns made of recycled plastic bottles during graduation ceremonies in May, officials said Wednesday.

“Everyone on campus, it seems, wants to do what they can to be more environmentally responsible,” Jim Wilkerson, director of Duke Stores and the person responsible for outfitting the graduates, said in a statement. “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.”

The caps and gowns will be made of fabric spun from molten plastic pellets, and each set will keep 23 used plastic bottles from winding up in landfills, Wilkerson said.

Duke's supplier has pledged to contribute 25 cents for each "green" gown sold to a campus environmental group designated by the university, he said. The caps and gowns cost about $2 to $3 more than the traditional polyester ones.

Any students who don't want to hold on to their gowns as keepsakes can place them in collection boxes around campus after graduation, and those gowns will be recycled into a new product, most likely filler for pillows, Wilkerson said.

“These gowns will help our graduates literally ‘walk the walk’ for sustainability and, hopefully, encourage them to think about ways they can address environmental issues in their lives beyond Duke,” Tavey McDaniel Capps, Duke’s environmental sustainability director, said in a statement.