How Grads Can Go Green With Their Gowns


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – With graduation season getting into full swing, a new company is offering a way to make the milestone a green one.

Greener Grads, a sustainability company based out of Grand Rapids, has launched a national initiative to recover, reuse and repurpose more than 1 million graduation gowns through partnerships with universities, sustainability organizations and more. The company plans to leverage partnerships, locally and nationally, along with charitable efforts to collect graduation gowns and educate on the extensive environmental impact.

Seth Yon, founder of Greener Grads.
Seth Yon, founder of Greener Grads.

“Over five million graduation gowns are worn by students annually, primarily constructed out of polyester which does not biodegrade. The detrimental impact on our environment can no longer be ignored,” said Seth Yon, founder of Greener Grads. “When considering the manufacturing process, how briefly the gowns are worn, and the environmental impact the chemicals cause if sent to a landfill – it becomes more difficult to justify buying new product as you realize what a big difference one person can make.”

Yon is also the founder of Michigan Grads, a company focused on offering students and their families environmentally friendly graduation products at an affordable price.
Greener Grads will launch partnerships with Kendall College of Art and Design at Ferris State University, Aquinas College, Berea College, University of Louisville and Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, with plans to expand nationally in 2015.

“The option of recycling graduation gowns is a great opportunity for schools to take the lead in getting this large source of material out of our landfills,” said Kristine Moffett, president of Michigan Green Schools. “This is an activity that can help Michigan boost its recycling volume and also save schools some disposal weight dollars.”

Mass produced gowns can be collected after commencement for recycling.

Because graduation gowns are mass-produced from acetate and polyester (both produced using fossil fuels), those tossed in the trash bear little to no hope of biodegrading. Gowns used across all graduations are made from the same material with dyes often extremely toxic to the environment. Through Greener Grads, founder  Yon hopes to drastically reduce the scholastic ecological footprint and change the way graduation is done.

Anyone can participate in collection efforts, as gowns of all ages, sizes and colors are accepted for the recycling programs. Gowns can be dropped off at all Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids locations or at any participating college.

“Greener Grads has a unique program that aligns with Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids sustainability efforts,” explained Jill Wallace, chief marketing & communications officer at Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids. “Just as Goodwill maximizes its donations for the betterment of those we serve, Greener Grads is focused on maximizing the sustainability of graduation apparel, while keeping costs at a minimum for the consumer.”

For more information about Greener Grads visit,