Graduation robes can be made of cotton, broadcloth, rayon or even silk. Stony Brook's robes will be made of recycled plastic bottles. (NINA LIN / THE STATESMAN)
Graduation robes can be made of cotton, broadcloth, rayon or even silk. Stony Brook’s robes will be made of recycled plastic bottles for a more eco-friendly graduation. (NINA LIN / THE STATESMAN)

In an effort to be eco-friendly, Stony Brook University is ordering graduation caps and gowns from a Virginia-based company called Oak Hall Cap & Gown, which uses a method called GreenWeaver to turn about 23 plastic bottles into one graduation uniform.

The five-step procedure has already recycled more than 44 million plastic bottles.

First, the bottles are processed to remove impurities, like the labels and the caps. Then, the bottles are chopped into small pieces called flakes, which are then melted and solidified into chips.

Next, the chips are melted and pressed out into yarn, which is woven and dyed Stony Brook red.

This GreenWeaver process is what determines the cost of the cap and gown—there are multiple steps and costs along the way that make recycled material generally more expensive. For instance, an average 20-pound case of Staples copy paper is $46 while the 100-percent recycled copy paper is $52.

This year, the University Bookstore is selling bachelors caps and gowns for $70.98 and masters for $75.98, about a three-dollar increase from the year before.

The Stony Brook Health Science Center Bookstore on East Campus said the prices depend on Oak Hall, which they buy from in retail price.

In partnering with Oak Hall Cap & Gown, Stony Brook joins other universities across the nation that strive to hold greener graduation ceremonies. GreenWeaver customers include Columbia University, the University of Florida and the University of Notre Dame. Oak Hall pioneered the GreenWeaver method in 2009, making them the first to introduce such attire to higher education.

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In 2010, the Associated Press reported that colleges across the U.S. were beginning “a new graduation trend this year: tossing their ceremonial gowns into recycling bins.” Companies like Oak Hall specialize in gowns made of recycled plastic bottles, while others, like University Cap & Gown, design apparel made with fabric intended to be reused.

Jay Ahgharian, assistant store manager of the campus bookstore, praised Stony Brook’s environmentally friendly approach to graduation.

“Stony Brook is a green university,” Ahgharian said. “We like to be a part of this trend.”

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