When this spring’s graduates walk across the stage and receive their diploma during May commencement, they’ll each be wearing 23 bottles.
That’s because Clayton State University’s graduation regalia is going green. Made up of sustainable materials, the new caps and gowns are constructed of softer fabric that is wrinkle resistant and lightweight.
“It’s the best gown we’ve ever made,” said Paul LaRoche, southeast territory manager for Oak Hall Cap & Gown.
The family-owned company’s graduation regalia are worn by students from hundreds of schools across the U.S. including the University of San Diego, Georgia Tech, and Yale University.
Clayton State students will wear Oak Hall’s GreenWeaver brand of caps and gowns. The gowns are made from 100 percent post-consumer plastic bottles. Oak Hall takes plastic bottles that would have originally been sent to a landfill, has them crushed into tiny particles and sends the material off to be milled into fabric for the gown.
The company was the first to begin to produce these types of gowns nearly a decade ago.
“In the Carolinas since 2009, we’ve taken just under 100 million bottles out of landfills,” LaRoche said. “That’s a direct impact here in the Southeast, let alone the U.S.”
From manufacturing to design, Oak Hall makes the whole process of constructing a cap and gown sustainable, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 54.6 percent in manufacturing plastic versus traditional polyester.
And because the gowns are recyclable, Oak Hall will provide collection bins for students who choose not to keep their caps and gowns. The apparel will be sent to local manufacturers to be recycled into carpet filler or plastic park benches.
“Our goal is to take from the landfill and never add back to the landfill,” LaRoche said.
LaRoche approached Clayton State’s graduation committee with the sustainable cap and gown. Impressed by the company’s American-made, family-driven mission, as well as the quality of the fabric and the fact that the apparel aligns with the University’s commitment to sustainable practices on campus, Oak Hall was picked.
“Oak Hall made a stellar impression on all of us who were evaluating the companies,” said Julie Coile, senior director of auxiliary services operations. “We made the decision to go with Oak Hall because we believed they could offer a better product and customer service experience than the competition and their company values aligned with those of Clayton State.”
Clayton State’s gowns will be decidedly different in design from previous years. The associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree regalia will feature three new designs.
Graduates earning an associate degree will wear blue gowns with the University seal embroidered in white on each lapel. Those earning a bachelor’s degree will wear blue gowns with the University seal embroidered in orange on the lapels. And master’s graduates will wear black gowns with the University seal embroidered in gold on each lapel.
“Graduation is a special, memorable moment in our students’ lives and the Class of 2018 will have the distinction of being the first class in Clayton State history to wear these customized gowns,” Coile said.