Ah, the traditional cap and gown. Students wait for years to wear them, because wearing them signifies the end to years of hard work, the closing of one chapter in a student's life, and hopefully the start to new adventures (academic or otherwise) that await them.

Unfortunately, those traditional caps and gowns also wreak havoc on the environment. About five minutes after most graduates toss their caps in the air, they toss their gowns in the trash. Or at best they stuff them away in a closet for the next 50 years. Not the best use of resources.

So many high schools and colleges across the nation are looking at greener options for their graduates. Of course the greenest option is to reuse the gowns, turning them in after commencement and allowing next year's batch of seniors to have their pick. But not many schools offer this option. In fact, I could only find one school, Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colo., that will recycle and reuse this year's gowns, thanks to a campaign spearheaded by one of the school's graduating seniors. Some students do pass on their gowns to friends or younger siblings, but very few schools offer students an organized method for returning gowns to be reused for subsequent graduations.

So if you know someone you can pass your gown on to after graduation, great. If not, you can still keep your gown out of the landfill by donating it to a local thrift shop or selling it on eBay. Or you may want to try some of these creative ideas for reusing your graduation gown.

Another way to green the graduation ensemble is to purchase gowns made from greener materials. Oak Hill Cap and Gown and University Cap and Gown offer graduation gowns made from recycled plastic bottles. Jostens also offers gowns made from plastic bottles as well as biodegradable gowns that are supposedly made from sustainably harvested trees and will decompose in a landfill within a year.

Green graduation gowns
Schools and students look for ways to reuse and recycle graduation gear.