The 1,000-plus graduating seniors who receive Samford University degrees this month might not notice anything different about their caps and gowns, but Mother Nature may.
All of their regalia, including hoods for students in Samford’s graduate programs, is made of 100 percent postconsumer recycled plastic bottles.
According to the supplier, Oak Hall Cap & Gown, the sustainable regalia is made of fabric spun from molten plastic pellets, using an average of 23 bottles to make each gown.
Although about 270 graduating seniors wore the environmentally friendly regalia at Samford’s December 2015 commencement, this is the first time for a much larger spring graduating class. Faculty members, who previously routinely rented regalia, now also go green by purchasing the new sustainable graduation wear.
Samford Registrar Jay Flynn, who coordinates commencement ceremonies, says the university moved to recycled regalia for several reasons.
For one thing, the gowns are lighter, which makes them more comfortable in the May heat. They are also less expensive than the items that previous graduates have rented and turned in after they collected their diplomas, he said.
“And, we get a chance to say Samford provides you with high-quality regalia you may keep while still doing something good for the environment,” Flynn said. “With some 60 million plastic bottles going into United States landfills every day, Samford is helping to turn trash into keepsakes.”
Paige Van De Vuurst, a graduating biology major who is president of Samford’s Restoring Eden environmental stewardship organization, applauds the new practice.
“I could not be more proud to don a cap and gown made of recycled materials,” said Van De Vuurst, who will graduate on Saturday with plans to work for the Peace Corps in Tanzania. “I feel happy that Samford is taking this step to be a greener university.”
While students sometimes forget to be aware of their impact on the world in an ecological sense, she said, “These caps and gowns serve as a reminder to us to remain dedicated to environmental awareness. It gives me, as a senior, hope that we are leaving Samford better than we found it.”
Samford held ceremonies for graduates of its McWhorter School of Pharmacy and Beeson Divinity School on May 6 and May 9, respectively. Upcoming are ceremonies for Brock School of Business, College of Health Sciences and Cumberland School of Law on Friday, May 13; and Howard College of Arts and Sciences, School of the Arts and Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education on Saturday, May 14.
The ceremonies mark the official beginning of the university’s yearlong 175th anniversary celebration.