UA Sustainability News

Graduation gowns promote recycling

Ben Stansell, Assistant Sports Editor
April 25, 2019
Filed under NEWS

CW/ Joe Will Field

Next weekend, 5,781 undergraduate and master’s students will walk across the stage in Coleman Coliseum at the University of Alabama commencement ceremonies. They’ll be receiving their college diplomas, a certification for years of studying and hard work, but they’ll also be saving a combined 132,963 plastic bottles from being buried in the ground.

The black caps and gowns worn by each and every graduate is composed of 100% recycled plastic, salvaged from bottles that were dumped into landfills across the eastern coast of the U.S.

The GreenWeaver cap and gown sets are produced by the Virginia-based regalia company Oak Hall. The idea for sustainable caps and gowns was first conceived by the company’s president Joe D’Angelo in 2009 at a University of Washington dining hall.

“Joe and our vice president, Donna Hodges, were going over how the presentation went, and Joe looked down and saw where they were using bamboo utensils in an effort to get away from plastic utensil,” said Lee Beekman, sales and marketing manager at Oak Hall. “All of the sudden, the wheels started turning.”

The original plan was to make the caps and gowns out of bamboo, but after preliminary testing didn’t yield positive results, the focus shifted to utilizing post-consumer plastic. Oak Hall partnered with Unifi, a company that specializes in turning plastic bottles into recycled polyester fabric, to create the GreenWeaver line of caps and gowns. Once Unifi collects the plastic bottles, they feed them into a machine that Beekman compared to a wood chipper to turn the plastic into usable fibers.

It takes an average of 23 plastic bottles to make each cap and gown set, so for every 100 students that wear the GreenWeaver gown, 2,300 bottles are saved.

In the first year that Oak Hall offered the recycled gown to colleges, a little under 100 schools purchased them. Now, the GreenWeaver gowns are worn by students during commencement at 500 different colleges across the U.S. Not only has the eco-friendly product helped prevent waste, it has also been a boom for Oak Hall.

“The sustainable approach really kind of brought a second wave of productivity to our company and put us on the forefront of doing this and being part of a bigger picture, which we’ve really enjoyed,” Beekman said.

The UA Supply Store first started offering the GreenWeaver caps and gowns in 2010.

“We like using the GreenWeaver [caps and gowns] because environmentally it is a good thing,” said David Cowdery, the associate director of the Supe Store. “Lately, there’d been so much talk about how much plastic bottles end up in the ocean and landfills, so I think as we grow more awareness, I think the students will recognize that it’s neat that we’re doing that instead of a regular cap and gown.”

Beekman mentioned that Oak Hall has a program for students to turn in their caps and gowns after graduation for them to be recycled once more. However, Oak Hall is still trying to develop this program, and it is not currently present on Alabama’s campus.

Since the caps and gowns are made from plastic, students are warned not to iron them or expose them to any intense heat. Instead, students are advised to hang the gowns in the bathroom during a warm shower to let the steam work out any wrinkles.

Even though the Supe Store has been selling GreenWeaver caps and gowns since 2010, Cowdery still doesn’t think most students know what they’re made of. Graduating senior Sophia Warner was unaware that they were composed of recycled plastic, but is proud to see the University making sustainability a priority.

“I had no clue,” said Warner, an international studies major. “This is great news though. We should keep doing this from now on and should try to invest in other ways that we can be more sustainable as a campus.”

UA’s Recycling Efforts Help Environment, Bottom Line

February 22, 2019

The University of Alabama’s efforts in recycling are having a positive effect on both the environment and the bottom line.

Recycling earns UA revenue. 

UA’s recycling program provides jobs, offers an economic impact through the sale of recycled material and helps to educate students, said Tony D.  Johnson, UA senior executive director for logistics and support services.

“I am so very thankful for the involvement and participation we receive from our students, faculty and staff,” Johnson said. “Their efforts of placing recycling materials in the correct bins and their involvement contributes to our success.”

UA has thousands of recycling containers around campus with hundreds of collection points. In the fiscal year 2018, one ton of recycling materials brought in an average of $201.53. By the numbers:

  • Tons of recycling diverted from the local landfill: 1,439.77.
  • Revenue generated from the sale of recycling materials: $184,287.6.
  • Landfill fee savings ($28 x 1,439.77 tons recycled): $40,313.56.
  • Performing inhouse shredding services (free to departments): $65,560.
  • Total revenue + cost savings: $290,161.17, or $201.53 per ton.

Using the most efficient methods also counts. By baling cardboard, sorted office paper and mixed paper, the recycling program receives higher prices for these recycling materials. In addition, this process helps reduce UA’s carbon footprint by sending out a full tractor-trailer load of recycling materials all at once.

UA also pursues other cost-saving methods that don’t factor into the recycling program. For example, UA works with departments so they will order less paper, and with the purchasing department to place Requests for Proposals to use a certain size pallet. Those pallets can later be sold to a vendor for $2 each.

Many organizations perform bin audits to determine the amount of recycling items that go into the landfill. UA uses these processes as well. UA audits delivery trucks coming on campus so staff members can plan to recycle those items. The department gives three tours a week to students, faculty and off-campus businesses, Johnson said.

UA provides a drop-off area for both students living off campus and members of the community to recycle aluminum, paper, glass, plastic and other items.

The department also has applied for grants to support sustainability initiatives. Over the last five years, UA has been awarded $291,609 in grant funds. These awards have contributed to the success of sustainability programs on campus. Organizations are encouraged to maintain records of the amount of recycling materials.

Go Green on Game Day with UA Recycling

 October 10th, 2018

The UA Office of Sustainability has partnered with UA Gameday to increase recycling efforts and make it easier for tailgaters to keep recyclables out of landfills.

On home game days look for the recycling tent, with attention-getting banners and signage. While fans can bring recycling to the tent, UA staff members also circulate among tailgaters on the Quad, offering recycling bags to fans and picking up recyclables, making it almost effortless to participate.

While there are many permanently placed recycling containers across campus, the game day tent doesn’t always make an appearance. “Kick-off time and anticipated crowd size will also determine whether or not we put up a tent for certain home games,” said Tyreece Hampton, director of logistics and support services.

The Office of Sustainability’s website has current data on UA’s overall recycling efforts. Hampton said the office is reviewing ways to improve the game day effort and possibly expand it to other events on campus. 

A lot of things you can recycle, and a few you can’t

UA has recycled 1,438.60 tons so far this year, a 14.8 increase over last year.

UA Recycling accepts:

  • Plastics numbered 1-7
  • Aluminum cans (but not aluminum foil)
  • Steel cans
  • Cardboard (including pizza boxes, but remove food residue)
  • Newspapers and office paper (but not waxed paper)

UA Recycling does not accept:

  • Styrofoam
  • Wire hangers

What about glass?

The City of Tuscaloosa has a glass recycling container at the Ancillary Services Building at 1115 14th St. The city accepts brown, green, blue or clear glass (but not light bulbs or mirrors).

For a full list of what UA recycles and where those items can be taken, visit

Senate encourages energy sustainability at latest meeting

Jackson Fuentes, Contributing Writer
September 14, 2018
CW/ Joe Will Field

The Senate nominated Senate Pro Tempore Brooks Payne before voting to encourage energy sustainability on campus by reducing the University’s carbon footprint during its meeting on Sept. 13.

The Senate, which also passed two other pieces of legislation before sending a final one to old business, encouraged the University to purchase solar-paneled umbrellas. The umbrellas would include charging mechanisms connected to solar panels so students could charge their devices without using electricity.

Sen. Branden Greenberg, a third-year law student, and Jason Rothfarb, a sophomore majoring in political science, wrote the resolution that encourages the University to follow campuses such as Iowa, UCLA, Cal Poly and UNC at Chapel Hill.

Greenberg said, by mirroring these schools, the University will be able to reduce its goal of eliminating its carbon footprint by 2 percent.

“I think that we could easily surpass 2 percent,” Greenberg said. “To be able to have stations that students can use to charge their own phones and laptops like that and not be using electricity but using solar power would only reduce that immensely.”

Senator Rothfarb said the University could surpass its goal by implementing the solar panels on umbrellas around campus.

“By 2020, [The University of] Alabama wants to reduce the carbon footprint by 2 percent,” Rothfarb said. “Branden and I believe that this will knock it out of the park.”

Additionally, the Senate passed an act to approve the organizational-funding requests suggested by the Financial Affairs Committee (FAC) for the month of October. The act approved nearly 88.58 percent of the funding requests made by 20 separate organizations. The requests amounted to a total of $35,127.87.

The Senate also sent a bill to bring back business professional to old business so the bill could be amended to say business casual. After the authors, Rothfarb and Sen. Logan Sheaffer, agreed they would settle for dressing business casual instead of business professional, a motion was brought forth before being properly seconded on the floor.

Should the bill pass when it is reintroduced from old business, it would mandate senators dress in business casual for each meeting held on the first week of the month. Senators would also be required to dress in business casual for special Senate sessions.

The Senate also passed a bill to create a deadline for student-organized seating. The bill closes a loophole allowing for appeals to student-organized seating throughout the year and only allows for organizations to appeal within the first three days of the student-organized seating chart’s release.

Order of Events
1. Brooks Payne nominated as Senate pro tempore
2. The Senate broke into committees
3. The Senate passed Act A-32-18 approving the organizational funding requests suggested by the Financial Affairs Committee for the month of October 2018 and for other purposes
4. The Senate passed Resolution R-23-18 encouraging energy sustainability and the reduction of carbon footprint
5. The Senate sent Bill B-12-18, a Bill to Bring Back Business Professional, to old business for amendments so it may read a Bill to Bring Back Business Casual when reintroduced
6. The Senate passed Bill B-13-18 creating a deadline for student-organized seating

UA recycling numbers increase in August

Shahriyar Emami, Staff Writer
September 10, 2018

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Faulkner

For Nicole Conde, a campus effort that focuses on recycling is a smart idea.

Conde, a sophomore majoring in nursing, said she can’t make sense of people disposing of a lot of products instead of recycling.

“How are you going to find anything negative about recycling?” Conde said.

Last month, the University saw almost a 48,000 pound increase compared to August 2017, when total pounds recycled was 344,340, according to a UA monthly recycling report from 2016 to 2017.

Tony Johnson, senior executive director of logistics and support services, said the University recycled 195 tons – almost 400,000 pounds – in the month of August.

According to this year’s report, 13,784 trees, 308,120 gallons of oil, 3,243,364 kilowatts of energy and 5,675,887 gallons of water were saved based on total paper recycled as of Aug. 31.

“I appreciate all the people that recycle on our campus,” Tony Johnson said. “I can’t thank the students, faculty and staff enough for what they do. That’s the reason we did 195 tons for the month of August.”

To continue recycling efforts on Saturday, the Go Green Gameday Recycling Initiative set up shop on the southwest corner of the Quad as the center for game-day recycling.

While she waited for the game to start, Conde stopped by the tent to toss the bottle she’d been drinking from into one of the bins inside.

“If we’re going to use so much disposable products, we should at least attempt to recycle them,” Conde said.

The initiative was active on the Quad from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. before the game on Saturday.

Recycling employees made rounds to the different tailgating tents and the fraternity section to pick up cans and other recyclables. The employees then brought them back to the Go Green section so they could be taken to a warehouse.

Bags for recycling were also handed out around the Quad.

“We’re trying to get our students to recycle more,” said Hazel Johnson, the facilities associate who assists with UA Recycling.

Overall, Hazel Johnson said the goal of the initiative is to get students engaged in recycling to promote a green campus.

“We want everyone to go green,” Hazel Johnson said. “It’s not actually hard to recycle.”

For students who stopped by to take pictures with Go Green’s recycling bins, free shirts, hats and buttons were handed out.

Students could also swap bags full of clean recycling, such as plastic or aluminum, for free items.

“We get a lot of our recycling out of the football stadium before game day,” Tony Johnson said. “They’ve been stocking and filling up the concession stands for a couple weeks now, so we pick up that cardboard and plastic before game day ever happens.”

Students should recycle because it is the right thing to do, and it reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfills, Tony Johnson said.

He said if landfills overflow, then new ones will be built. Since landfills can hold only so much volume, another goal of the initiative is to prolong the life of current landfills through recycling.

“It’s just the right thing to do for our generation and generations to come,” Tony Johnson said.

The initiative’s crew gets back together to pick up more trash and recycling on Sunday morning after game days.

“People think it won’t affect you,” Conde said. “Like ‘Oh, the Great Pacific garbage patch. Why should I care?’ Eventually it’s going to come back to get you.”