Moving out sustainably

by Tina Owen,

Students consider options to recycle and upcycle during end-of-year move out.

Reduce, reuse, recycle -- a joint effort by university departments, a student organization and local non-profits followed these principles to help lessen the environmental impact of last semester’s move-out days.

Each summer, as departing students clean out their residence hall rooms, they leave behind heaps of clothes, shoes and bedding they can’t take with them, as well as larger items such as fans, mini-fridges, bicycles and skateboards.

“Our residential students leave a tremendous amount of stuff while our custodial staff are very busy preparing our halls for summer programming,” says Joe Abraham, director of the Sustainability Institute. “Every university struggles with this situation, and this year we were able to better plan for and document donations while reducing the workload of our busy staff.”

Partnering with Housing and Community Life, Facilities Services and the Panhellenic Council, the Sustainability Institute helped donate almost 1,000 cubic feet of mostly clothing and other ‘soft’ household item to the United Gospel Mission of Salem (UGM) and Goodwill.

Students were able to leave unwanted items at designated collection areas in the larger residence halls, where they were collected by the Panhellenic Council and UGM. Goodwill parked a semi-trailer donation center near University Apartments to accept donations from the smaller residence halls nearby.

The Panhellenic Council collected common dorm room items to sell back to students in August at its rummage sale in Jackson Plaza. In addition to helping students reuse items, the sale supports scholarships.

UGM and Goodwill mainly accepted clothing, which is either sold in the non-profits’ thrift stores or “down-cycled” by being baled and sold in bulk to companies that reuse the material.

The Sustainability Institute plans a similar event in December, when ASP students and graduating students move out of the residence halls.