Excerpted from Friday's Los Angeles Times:
Many high school and college graduates get an "A" for social consciousness, having opted to wear "green" caps and gowns as they accept their diplomas this month.
But what they're really getting is a postgraduate course in greenwashing, and the cynical ways corporations will exploit their desire to protect the environment.
Some high schools, as well as prestigious universities such as UC Berkeley and Yale, are opting for environmentally friendly graduation garb made from recycled plastics or biodegradable materials.
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Many plastics are marketed as "biodegradable," but it's a highly misleading term — so much so that state Sen.
Mark DeSaulnier, D-Walnut Creek, has introduced a bill banning its use in California by plastic manufacturers.
That's because there is no technical scientific standard to define it, and the conditions under which so-called biodegradable items break down vary greatly.
Often, they will decompose under natural conditions but not in landfills, which are sealed off from moisture and oxygen and thus serve as time capsules for trash.
In the old days — say, the 1990s — caps and gowns were usually rented to graduates, then returned and laundered for reuse the following year.
If graduates really want to go green, they don't need newfangled gowns to do it.
Consciously or not, their less eco-aware parents sometimes did things more sustainably.