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North Lake to host an eco-friendly graduation Graduates' caps and gowns made from recycled materials

IRVING, TX-- No one in the audience at Loos Field House on May 7 will think anything is out of the ordinary when North Lake College's 2011 graduates walk across the stage to accept their diplomas. Family members and friends will observe a large number of graduates this year – over 350 – but none of them will notice that this year's caps and gowns were made from recycled plastic bottles. 

"There is definitely not a decline in quality at all," said Andrea Patrick, store manager for Follett, the campus bookstore where the caps and gowns are ordered. "In fact, they look better than those before. I think it's a better looking product."

The Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) checked into the eco-friendly regalia and decided on the Renew Fabric gowns from Herff Jones, an Indianapolis-based company that has been in operation since 1920, that serves thousands of colleges and high schools across the country with their memorabilia and graduation needs.

Recycling post-consumer plastic bottles has been on the rise for the past 20 years, offering a second life for the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) material that would otherwise end up in the dump. It's hard to imagine the hard plastic of a water or soda bottle turning into cloth. In layman's terms, Patrick explained that the post-consumer bottles are crushed into large bales and sent to a plastics reclaimer, where they are further broken down into flakes. Then those flakes are compressed into pellets and sold to businesses. PET is melted down to produce polyester fiber, and the uses are endless.

"Isn't it nice the things they can do now?" said Patrick. "It's a tangible result to recycling, and I like that about it." The Renew Fabric has fewer wrinkles than the former polyester gowns, and fewer creases, too, she added.

Since committing to recycling and sustainability five years ago, North Lake College has made numerous eco-friendly changes on its four campuses, changes like LEED certifications, waste minimization, lake access irrigation, indigenous plants and a community garden, to name a few. 

Now the college can add graduation caps and gowns to its list of green accomplishments.

"I think they are identical to the old ones we used to have," said Tiara Willingham, a student and Follett employee who will wear a recycled gown and cap when she receives her associate degree in arts May 7.

"If you're only going to wear it once, it's a good thing that it's recyclable."


Editor's note: for interviews, photo opportunities and media support, please contact Gina Federer, marketing and advertising coordinator, at 972-273-3005, or the North Lake College Public Information Office, 972-273-3004.

North Lake College is a member of the Dallas County Community College system. Educational opportunities are offered by the Dallas County Community College system without regard to race, color, age, national origin, religion, sex or sexual orientation.