YPSILANTI — Nike’s Pro TurboSpeed collection of uniforms, worn by Olympians in the 2012 Summer Games, made headlines because they were fashioned from recycled plastic bottles.

Commencement gowns may not be as trendy as Olympic gear, but Eastern Michigan University students will keep up with the competition by going green with a new environmentally friendly type of regalia — a gown fashioned out of 23 recycled plastic bottles.

More than 2,000 Eastern Michigan students are eligible to walk Dec. 16, at 2 p.m., at EMU’s Convocation Center, with all participants wearing the recycled gowns.

You wouldn’t know that each gown came from plastic bottles. There’s no crinkling sound and the fabric feels like soft polyester. The mortarboard caps are made from the same plastic-based fabric and recycled cardboard, and the tack that holds the button on the cap is recycled metal. After the ceremony, caps and gowns can be dropped in a collection box to recycle. Only the tassel and the gown’s zipper can’t be recycled.

EMU first debuted the regalia for the April 2011 commencement. Now, several new features are available for the December ceremony. Undergraduates, who were formerly clad in black, will now walk down the aisle in dark green caps and robes. Master’s students will still be dressed in traditional black. Doctoral robes will be dark green and black, with dark green velvet panels trimmed in white cord.

All robes will now have the university seal embroidered on the front two tabs. The gowns are available at the EMU campus bookstore while the doctoral regalia are custom ordered.

The environmentally friendly gowns are the brainchild of Virginia-based Oak Hall, a leading manufacturer of academic apparel that has been in business since 1889. Their new line of recycled apparel, called GreenWeaver, took 14 months to develop.

For every 1,000 students who walk in GreenWeaver regalia, Oak Hall estimates that 23,000 plastic bottles are kept from landfills. The firm has already removed 12 million plastic bottles from landfills as of July 2012.


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