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BSU Bookstore offers caps, gowns made of recycled plastic

Bemidji State University senior Ashley Bremseth checks out the new recycled graduation gowns available at the University Bookstore on Wednesday afternoon. In an effort to be greener the bookstore offers the typical gown or those made from recycled plastic. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Their gowns will all be colored black but some of this year's Bemidji State University graduates will feel green.

The BSU Bookstore has offered graduating students the option to purchase gowns and caps made of 100 percent, post-consumer recycled plastic bottles.

GreenWeaver, the name of the new line of graduation apparel, is made of fabric spun from molten plastic pellets. It takes an average of 23 bottles to make each gown.

The Oak Hall Company, which makes GreenWeaver apparel, claims the gowns are softer to the touch and more breathable than traditional polyester fabric. The caps and gowns are indistinguishable in color, feel or fit from traditional polyester material. Tagless labels are stamped with soy ink. The fabric also exceeds all requirements for flammability.

"I really like the idea," said Alissa Nollan, text book manager at the BSU Bookstore. "The fabric is a little nicer."

Plastic bags used to store the caps and gowns are made from recycled plastic. Shipping cartons are produced from recycled cardboard. Even the used regalia can be returned after commencement to be recycled into new fabric.

While green may be better for the environment, it might not be better for students' pockets. Gowns cost $5 more than regular polyester gowns.

Nollan said the Bookstore hasn't decided whether to go 100 percent with the GreenWeavers next year. So far, the Bookstore has sold more of the regular polyester caps and gowns.

Oak Hall claims that so far 3.5 million plastic bottles have been reclaimed from landfills to produce GreenWeaver materials.

By purchasing GreenWeaver apparel, the company states that carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by 54.6 percent in the process of manufacturing fabric from plastic verses virgin polyester. Using thermal recycled energy, which is used to produce GreenWeaver fabric, saves energy use by 52.6 percent over petroleum.

"I'm pretty excited about it," said BSU sustainability coordinator Erika Bailey-Johnson. "I remember buying a gown for graduation - it felt like such a waste because you buy it and wear it once. I'm glad (the Bookstore) did this."

Bailey-Johnson said she had talked to the Bookstore about an option to have cap and gown rentals to reduce costs and materials used, but learned gowns would need to be continuously washed and ironed.

For more information about the GreenWeaver caps and gowns at BSU, contact the BSU Bookstore by calling 755-1660 or visit