South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

South Jersey Climate News

Sowing the seeds of environmental and food justice
Issac Linsk, Staff Writer • May 23, 2024

Green and Glamorous: Making prom night more sustainable and affordable

Prom can be expensive and excessive. But there are ways to reduce the cost and the waste – and still have an epic night of style.
Video by Jordan Connelly and Jonathan Hubbard. On-camera reporting by Brynn Wilson

Lilly Frankel, a senior at Cherry Hill West, is really excited about her senior prom, but is also a little overwhelmed by the cost of the event.

“Just the dresses alone get so expensive, and then once you add in hair, makeup, shoes, spray tans, and everything in between, it definitely gets pricey, especially for one night,” said Frankel.

Like many young people, Frankel is also concerned about the environment.

So to mitigate their impact, Frankel and her friends have come up with some creative ideas to make their prom less expensive and more eco-friendly.

“We are taking extra fabric from our dresses to make our date ties and bow ties, so we aren’t buying and wasting more,” said Frankel. “We are also going to make our own bouquets to reduce the waste!”

Prom is a rite of passage filled with glamour and celebration. But it can also be an expensive – and even excessive – undertaking that packs an environmental punch. 

Increasingly eco-conscious young people, educators and companies are looking for ways to make prom both stylish and sustainable.

Here are some ideas to get your eco-friendly prom party started.

Giving gowns another chance to sparkle

Dresses have the power to turn heads. Just because a dress was worn once, doesn’t mean it can’t grab people’s attention.

That is why local officials in Camden County host an annual event called “Say Yes to the Prom Dress,” which collects donated gowns and offers them to girls free of charge.

Individuals and organizations contribute thousands of dresses, most of which are in excellent condition. Hundreds of young people are wearing them to prom this year.

“It’s only our second year of doing it, and it’s… doubled since last year,” said Lieutenant Tracy Seigel of the Camden County Sheriff’s Office, who organized the event. 

The event aims to ease the financial burden of prom, it also gives dresses another night on the town. They also provide shoes, jewelry, handbags and other accessories.

Another alternative is to buy repurposed dresses from sustainable dress companies or on platforms like TheRealReal, Queenly, Facebook Marketplace or Etsy

If you are creative and can sew – or know someone who can – you can modify your mom’s or big sister’s prom dress that is likely still hanging in the closet. There are many online resources and tutorials for those wishing to update a prom dress, like altering it for a brand new look

And it’s not just tuxedos that can be rented; websites like Rent the Runway allow you to rent a dress for the night as well for a fraction of the price of a new dress.

DIY decorations and backdrops

Students and excited parents want a great place to take pictures before prom and so many decorate their houses or backyards to produce a perfect photo opportunity. 

To avoid buying expensive decorations that last a few minutes and then go straight to the landfill, making your own prom decorations can be easy, fun, and great for the environment. 

One way to achieve this is by taking a bedding sheet or tablecloth and hanging string lights from it, creating a stunning backdrop. You will not only save money, but you can also break it down and continue to use the sheet and lights.

It’s more fun to travel together

Many teens like to travel in style to prom by renting a sports car. But not only do these add a big cost  and emissions  to prom night, but they can also lead to car accidents. Distracted and drinking and driving on prom night can be deadly combinations.

Sharing a limo or a party bus – or even asking your cool older brother to be chauffeur for you and your friends –  is a great way to reduce the cost, be more environmentally conscious, and make great memories before the biggest night of your high school career. 

Money doesn’t make memories

Ask any adult about their prom night 10 or 15 years later and few will say they wish they had spent more money.

The memories you create at prom are not determined by how expensive your dress was, how much you spent on your hair, or the sports car you drove a few miles.

If you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by good friends, you will remember the people you are with and the laughter and memories you share. And a few decades later, everyone looks back on their prom pictures and laughs at the outdated styles anyway.

So have fun. Be creative. And make your prom both glamorous and green.

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