Go to college, help a landfill

out collegeNearly 12,000 plastic bottles will have been saved from a landfill when Western Carolina University students graduate this month. What’s the connection? More than 500 of the 700 graduates and numerous participating alumni will be wearing eco-friendly gowns they purchased at the WCU Bookstore.

The gowns are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and each one will keep an average of 23 plastic bottles out of landfills, according to the Virginia-based manufacturer, Oak Hall Cap & Gown.

Western Carolina University will hold commencement exercises at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Ramsey Regional Activity Center to recognize its fall graduating class. 

“We realized the importance of the university’s sustainability initiative, and when we found out about this opportunity, we were thrilled to be able to participate in this effort,” said Pamela DeGraffenreid, director of Catamount Stores.

Lauren Bishop, WCU’s energy manager and chief sustainability officer, said the special gowns provide an additional opportunity for the graduating students and alumni to take pride in their accomplishments and in the university. “When they walk across the stage, they can truly be a part of the Catamount spirit to reduce our carbon paw print,” Bishop said.

For those students and alumni who wear the eco-friendly gowns and don’t want to hold onto them as a keepsake, recycling bins will be placed in the Ramsey Center and at the WCU Bookstore so the used gowns can be sent back to Oak Hall Cap & Gown for more recycling. The company works with vendors to turn the used gown fabric into other sustainable products, including down comforter material for pillows and blankets.

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