Just in time for Earth Day 2015, Goodwill Industries Suncoast (St. Petersburg) became the first Goodwill in Florida to partner with Michigan-based Greener Grads, a company devoted to keeping graduation gowns out of landfills and affordable.
In the past, graduation gowns were made of cotton and rented for the big day. But over the past 30 years, the industry transitioned to “one-time use” polyester gowns. Polyester is a petroleum-based fabric made from the same chemical compound used to make plastic water bottles. Repurposing one million graduation gowns equates to preventing 588,235 gallons of oil from being used to produce new gowns, according to Greener Grads. That’s in addition to the immeasurable benefit of keeping the same gowns out of the waste stream.
The St. Petersburg Goodwill will send the donated gowns it collects to Greener Grads. Greener Grads will steam clean and press the gowns, then offer them for rent online, at a fraction of the typical retail cost. The Goodwill receives one dollar each time a gown it collected is rented. Each gown can be rented up to 15 times before being repurposed as fill material.
“The business models of Greener Grads and Goodwill are a perfect fit,” said Tim Murphy, director of acquisitions and allocations at Goodwill-Suncoast. “We’re both all about sustainability, affordability and keeping Earth Day alive all year round.”
Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids (MI) originally partnered with Greener Grads to collect one million graduation gowns as part of a national initiative in 2014.