Reusing: Better than Recycling

NWF   |   May 6, 2009

Every spring we see a rash of stories on end-of-the-semester cleanouts in dorms and student apartments. As students leave for the summer, dumpsters fill up with perfectly good lamps, textbooks, furniture and clothing. However, schools are trying to make the mass exodus from campus less like a dump and more like a treasure hunt by creating student reuse depots, rescuing items from landfills, and donating useful materials to shelters and thrift stores. Here are a few:

  • Mills College, in Oakland, CA, set up a Reuse Depot in Reinhardt Hall, re-purposing concrete slabs and wooden shelves from the city landfill to hold all the stuff donated by students. "Shoppers" can choose from canned food, textbooks, clothing, binders, purses, gardening tools and more. Students from the school's environmental club run the Depot during the semester, and coordinate a  drop-off to local charities at the end of the semester. 
  • Suffolk University makes it easy with a Dump-and-Run program, which saves the university money that it would otherwise spend on trash-hauling. Donated materials are given to local organizations for the homeless and the hungry. In the spring of 2008, the program diverted 5,500 lbs worth of items. 
  • Arizona State makes an event out of ditching the dumpster, with games, de-stressing activities, music and prizes. Last year they collected more than 10,000 lbs worth of materials, and also accept items that are hard to recycle, such as electronics and toner cartridges. 
  • Hamilton College has an annual Ham's Cram-and-Scram which takes back unopened food and other goods from students and donates most of them to local shelters and consignment stores. Paper and other materials are typically recycled, and reusable items like furniture are kept to be resold to students at the beginning of the next fall semester. 
  • NYU's Sustainability Task Force runs Green Apple Move Out, which collects and donates discarded items from dorms and the law school, and hopes to encompass every dormitory on the campus in the next five years.