by Ward Mullens, Published April 15, 2011
YPSILANTI - During college commencements, graduates usually are challenged to "make a difference as they head out into the real world."
Eastern Michigan University graduates will be making a difference even before they leave the ceremony. EMU students graduate Saturday, April 16.
Many of the more than 2,000 graduates will be helping the environment by choosing to wear eco-robes, called GreenWeaver robes, that are made from recycle plastic bottles.
"I thought it would be an easy change to make, and it doesn't require sacrifice and it doesn't cost a lot," said Lois Vasquez, a sophomore from Ypsilanti who championed the idea at EMU.
"I have been involved in sustainability on campus and went to a conference where they had vendors and one of them was GreenWeaver," Vasquez said.
Vasquez brought the idea back to student government and kept it moving forward.
While Vasquez said that the eco-robes cost about $3 more than traditional robes, that hasn't slowed students from purchasing them.
"If you compare March of last year with March of this year, our sales for graduation are up 157 percent," said Kevin McKay, store manager for the EMU Bookstore at the Student Center. "And while we are not that far into April, sales for this month are up double digits."
The Green Weaver robes save plastic bottles from landfills and helps reduce CO2 emissions by manufacturing the fabric from plastic instead of polyester.
McKay said he is working with student government to provide stations at commencement so that graduates can recycle the robes once the ceremony is complete. The robes will then be taken back to the company and made into more robes, McKay said.
Vasquez said she is so committed to helping make this change that she is attending graduation to help with the collection of the robes. She also said that she will help get the robes recycled after students are done with graduation parties.
"This is just a small step in a larger effort to help make this a more sustainable campus," Vasquez said. "I'm really excited and proud about this and how much enthusiasm it has been met with."
"I am very pleased with the switch to the GreenWeaver eco-robes for commencement," said Jack Kay, provost and executive vice president for EMU. "I commend Lois Vasquez for being the champion of this effort and working with constituencies across the university to effect this change. It is so important to adopt sustainable practices, and we continue looking for other ways to make EMU a leader in this arena."