National Graduation Sustainability Initiative Expands Operations into 22 States; Establishes 100 Partnerships

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In less than one year of operation, Greener Grads has diverted more than 12,000 lbs. of waste from landfills across the nation with the goal of 50,000 lbs. by the end of spring graduation season

Berea College Gown Collection

The Greener Grads reuse and recycle model sheds an exposing light on the one-time use graduation gown and forces us to consider creative solutions for reuse, consumption habits, and resource recovery of materials that wouldn't traditionally be considered.

Greener Grads, a national sustainability initiative launched out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, announced today it has expanded operations into 22 states through partnerships with colleges and universities, more than 100 high schools, sustainability organizations, well-recognized brands and nonprofits – all within the first 10 months of operation. The current graduation industry is focused on the mass production of polyester gowns with the end result being destruction of the environment and financial burden for students and families.

What started as a wild idea by founder, Seth Yon, has now grown into a multi-state sustainability movement with former critics scrambling to get on board in light of the organization’s enormous success. Greener Grads launched the initiative on April 22, 2014. Since inception, the initiative has been able to divert approximately 12,000 pounds of polyester from being placed in our nation’s landfills. A goal of 50,000 pounds has been set for the end of this spring’s graduation season.

“The response Greener Grads has received is astonishing. Having started out with essentially nothing 11 short months ago, the company has grown into a viable sustainability initiative that is already making a positive impact on the environment,” said Yon. “We knew upon launching that we would have an uphill battle changing the paradigm. Given the manner in which the current graduation industry is run, the focus is moving away from a big business model to the actual student and environmental impact.”

More than five million gowns eventually end up in landfills each year. Greener Grads partners participate in the recovery-reuse-recycle initiative, directly aiding in the goal of diverting unnecessary pollution from the country’s waste stream. In addition, the Greener Grads’ recycling program allows graduation gowns to be rented at future commencement ceremonies for a substantially lower cost than purchasing a new one.

Greener Grads has recently launched partnerships with Aquinas College, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Rapids Public School, Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids, Goodwill of Detroit, Hope College, Recycle Ann Arbor, City High School, River Valley Academy, Berea College, University of Louisville, Hinsdale Central High School, Lakeland Regional, Boston Public Schools, Brookline High School, Oregon Green Schools, San Francisco Unified Schools, San Francisco Goodwill, Phoenix Union High Schools, Mesa Community College, Western Michigan University, University of South Florida, Boulder Valley Schools and Suncoast Goodwill.

“It's important to seize any opportunity that exposes students to the concept that none of their things simply ‘go away,’” said Jessica Feldish, District Recycling Coordinator for Boston Public Schools. “The Greener Grads reuse and recycle model sheds an exposing light on the one-time use graduation gown and forces us to consider creative solutions for reuse, consumption habits, and resource recovery of materials that wouldn't traditionally be considered 'recycling’.”

Through Greener Grads and the initiative’s’ partnerships, Yon hopes to drastically reduce the scholastic ecological footprint and change the way graduation is done throughout the United States.

“Why wouldn't we reuse polyester graduation gowns instead of throwing them ‘away’? It is inspiring to offer graduating students the chance to do something positive with a gown they would have worn once, stuffed in the back of their closet and eventually into the dumpster,” said Takara Sights, Zero Waste Fellow at San Francisco Unified School District. “By donating their gowns to Greener Grads, graduates are giving other students the opportunity for a more affordable graduation with a lesser impact on our environment.”

“Two heads are better than one. Our partners mobilize the mission of Greener Grads, which is why they are so important. Partnering with schools and organizations that support sustainability is an essential component to the future growth of Greener Grads,” said Yon. “If we are able to achieve our goal and recycle one million gowns by the end of 2016, that will prevent 588,235 gallons of oil from being used to produce more.”

For more information about Greener Grads or to participate in the movement, please visit:


About Greener Grads:
The Greener Grads story begins in the brain of Seth Yon, a former employee of a graduation industry giant who wanted to utilize his unique skill set to make the world a better place.

After 11 years with the company and delivering a career volume of over $9 million of product, Seth decided to take his vast knowledge of the industry and form Michigan Grads, a West Michigan-based company focused on offering students and their families environmentally friendly graduation products at a more affordable price.

Now with the launch of Greener Grads, Seth introduces a clever way to repurpose, re-use and recycle, shifting his focus to a wider audience and moving one step closer to becoming an environmentally-conscience leader in the graduation industry. To Seth, Greener Grads isn't about getting rich, “it's about getting it right. If I can be part of a small change, then I want to do that. Every gown counts.”

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