Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids (MI) has teamed up with Greener Grads, a newly formed sustainability company, to launch a national initiative to recover, reuse and repurpose more than 1 million graduation gowns through partnerships with universities, sustainability organizations and more. The Goodwill has agreed to collect and sort the donated gowns at no charge as a part of its sustainability efforts.
“More than 5 million graduation gowns are worn by students annually, primarily constructed out of polyester, which does not biodegrade. The detrimental impact on our environment can no longer be ignored,” said Seth Yon, founder of Greener Grads.“When considering the manufacturing process, how briefly the gowns are worn, and the environmental impact the chemicals cause if sent to a landfill—it becomes more difficult to justify buying new product as you realize what a big difference one person can make.”
Because graduation gowns are mass produced from acetate and polyester (both by using fossil fuels), those tossed in the trash bear little to no hope of biodegrading. Additionally, all graduation gowns are made from the same material with dyes that are extremely toxic to the environment. Through Greener Grads, Yon hopes to drastically reduce the scholastic ecological footprint and change the way graduation is done.
Anyone can participate in collection efforts, as gowns of all ages, sizes and colors are accepted for the recycling programs. Gowns can be dropped off at all Grand Rapids Goodwill locations or at any participating college.
“Greener Grads has a unique program that aligns with Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids sustainability efforts,” explained Jill Wallace, the Goodwill’s chief marketing and communications officer. “Just as Goodwill maximizes its donations for the betterment of those we serve, Greener Grads is focused on maximizing the sustainability of graduation apparel, while keeping costs at a minimum for the consumer.”
The company is also launching partnerships with Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, Aquinas College, Berea College and the University of Louisville. It plans to expand nationally in 2015.