Bay Tree Moves to 100% Recycled Gowns

March 05, 2020

The Bay Tree Bookstore again shows its commitment to sustainability by opting for a regalia purchase made from recycled water bottles.

Like so many products, graduation gowns have changed over the years — and not necessarily for the better. Once made out of cotton and rented for the ceremony, over the past three decades, graduation gowns have transitioned to polyester, a petroleum-based fabric that does not biodegrade.

Most graduates only keep the tassel from their hat, discarding the cap and gown as soon as the ceremony ends. Every year, from ceremonies across the nation, more than 5 million gowns wind up in landfills every year, causing great harm to the environment.

This waste crisis has led some graduation attire companies to turn their focus to sustainability. UCSC has reached out to such a company.

This year UCSC graduates will have a one-of-a-kind gown that is certifiably manufactured from 100% recycled materials. Each recycled gown used in place of a petroleum-based gown will:

  • Divert 29 plastic bottles from the landfill
    Save the energy equivalent of 0.5 gallon of gas
  • Consume 2.1 fewer liters of drinking water 
  • Decrease contributions to climate change by reducing 1.5lbs of CO2/greenhouse gas emissions
  • Use 100% recycled materials

This choice creates a useful purpose for recycled materials, creates jobs, and reduces the number of materials that go into landfills.

Sharon Pena, ID Card Service Coordinator, and Alyssa Leigh Herring, ID Card Services/Graduation Regalia Assistant, from Bay Tree Bookstore, were involved in this move and shared that “with past rental gowns, the dry cleaning alone had an impact on the environment, with the solutions and water being used and gowns only being reusable two or three times before being down-cycled."  

"These news gowns have the potential to be passed on to family members or collected by the colleges to loan out to students who can’t afford them, furthering its sustainability within UCSC. 
The move aligned with our mission to become more sustainable and also cut down labor costs on the retrieval of the gowns.”

To make this move happen, Sharon and Alyssa brought the idea up again this year to Dani Barker, Associate Director of College Student Life Operations & Staff Development, and Doug Lang, Interim Director of the Bay Tree Bookstore. Both of them were on board and made the decision to go forward with the transition. After Procurement approved this great step, it was official: Commencement 2020 will feature UCSC's first batch of 100% recycled gowns.

Gilbert Garcia, Bay Tree Store Operations Manager, sees this as “a fantastic move which aligns with Bay Tree Bookstore’s commitment to becoming more sustainable. In addition, students and families can enjoy their gowns after the ceremony for pictures and celebrations.  In the past, rental gowns had to be returned immediately after their ceremony.”

The gowns will be in UCSC’s blue and gold colors and each will feature the university’s seal. UCSC’s order for this year alone will prevent the equivalent of more than 109,000 bottles from going to the landfill!