Graduation gowns green in more than one way

Amanda Monthei

Northern Michigan University’s graduation gowns for May’s commencement will be slightly different from prior years.

The difference comes not only from the texture, the color and the overall appearance of the gowns, but also the material from which they are made – recycled water bottles.

The gowns are made of 100% post-consumer recycled materials.

The new gowns, which were used in the December graduation ceremony as well, are helping NMU continue its initiative of being more environmentally-minded in the coming years.

“I think it’s awesome,” senior and environmental conservation major Natalie Lindsay said. “If people see something and think ‘this is an awesome product that is made out of something recyclable,’ that’s going to push them to actually recycle themselves.

“It’s just making that connection and then getting an action to follow it.”

Lindsay, who was unaware of the gowns being made from recycled materials when she ordered hers, reserved her cap and gown a week ago and is expecting it to be delivered soon.

Regardless, Lindsay was excited to hear that Northern is continuing its commitment to its well-known “Northern Naturally” slogan.

“I feel like small steps like these are really going to help,” Lindsay said. “It’s kind of like a two-for-one – not only is it environmental but it’s also going to get publicity for the school because they are sticking with their slogan “Northern Naturally,” and that’s why people want to come here.”

The gowns, which are ordered through Herff Jones and are a darker shade of green than last year’s, are also drawing some criticism. One student, Scott Lawrence, questioned whether the recycled gowns were really the most environmentally conscious route for graduation gowns.

“My two cents are, why can’t we use last year’s gown?” he said. “That is truly recycling gowns.”

The gowns have, for the most part, been welcomed by Northern students and are also being implemented by Michigan Tech this spring.

“Most students that have come in and complained for having to pay more because they were going to borrow or something said, ‘oh that’s the new one? I like that a lot better,’” bookstore employee Mindy Nelson said of the new gowns. “They’re happy about it.”

Lindsay, who will be traveling to an internship in Hawaii to do invasive species work after graduation, was just happy that Northern will be sending the right message to incoming freshmen and others who come to campus.

“The more environmentally-friendly things that we can push and advertise and say that we’re doing, the more students are going to want to come and pay tuition here,” she said. “I think that that is really something that is eye-catching for future students.

“When they can see things like this, the whole recycled gown thing, that’s just another step (towards a greener campus).”

The gowns, compared to last year’s, are actually $2 less and require 54 percent less carbon emissions to produce.