Sustainability Club works to make switch to recycled graduation gowns

Discussions with principal prove effective, club hopes to see change for 2022 graduation

Claire Williams , Managing Editor

During February of this year, Margaret Hall ‘21 read about colleges switching to 100% recycled graduation gowns in an effort to promote sustainability. Recognizing the potential for LT to follow in the colleges’ footsteps, Hall suggested the project at a Sustainability Club meeting. Part of the intrigue came from the project’s short-term timeline, she said.

“This is something that we can do in one to two years and have something to say for it as a club,” Hall said. “And honestly it is a pretty big impactI would say 1,000 graduation gowns per year is a pretty significant number.”

Hall began discussing the proposition of recycled graduation gowns with Principal Brian Waterman in February; however, they had to take a break from planning due to COVID-19. The discussion resurfaced in September, Sustainability Club member Rosie Martini ‘22 said.

The proposed 100% recycled graduation gowns are the Renew gowns from Herff Jonesthe same company that provides LT’s traditional gowns. Each Renew gown saves 29 bottles from the landfill, releases 1.5 fewer CO2 emissions, and uses 2.1 less liters of drinking water, according to Herff Jones’ website. With these added benefits comes an additional $3 per gown, Hall said.

The original idea was to offer individual families the option between the $19 traditional graduation gown and the $22 Renew gown (tax not included in prices). However, due to the discrepancies in the shades of blue, Herff Jones will not give LT that option, Hall said.

By the time LT realized this, Herff Jones had sent out information regarding graduation gowns for the class of 2021. Waterman was not comfortable changing the gown’s price after families had already placed orders, he said.

“We were disappointed that it’s not going to happen this year,” Hall said. “But you have to recognize that change just takes time sometimes, so we’re just optimistic that it’s going to happen at all.”

Hall and Martini have now shifted focus towards getting recycled graduation gowns approved for the class of 2022. In the meantime, Hall and Martini hope to increase awareness and enthusiasm surrounding the idea, believing that the administration will be more likely to approve it if there is more community support, Hall said.

“I see a lot of people who actually do care about making better choices for the environment,” Martini said. “If we can play it right and get information about, like tell people, ‘hey you’d be making a positive impact by choosing this gown,’ then I thinknot everyone, obviouslybut more people would definitely support it.”

With the lengthened time frame, Waterman anticipates receiving feedback from students and families in the spring or summer, asking families if they’d be willing to pay the extra $3 for a recycled gown, he said. Through the information gathered and additional discussions with Hall and Martini, the administration will likely make a decision regarding the class of 2022’s graduation gowns in the spring or summer.

While reducing its carbon footprint is not an explicit goal within District 204, LT supports combating climate change, Waterman said.

“I think anytime we can do our part to help the environment is critical, and it is important we remain cognizant of the impact any changes have on our students and families,” Waterman said.