Back-to-School Yard Sales Reduce Campus Waste, Support Community

If you’re a college student as we near the end of August, you’re probably beginning to think about back-to-school. Time to dig out the boxes and bins of dorm room essentials you packed away last May, and to figure out what you still need.  Maybe the rug you had last year belonged to your roommate, and she’ll be in Spain for the upcoming semester, or maybe you just can’t find your lamp…Sounds like it is time to get the car keys for a trip to the nearest big-box store…But wait, maybe not?! At yard sales on campuses across the country this fall, students will be able to pick up gently used items for fair prices and a minimal effect on the planet!

Volunteers with the University of New Hampshire’s Trash 2 Treasure program have been rolling rugs and testing televisions all summer long in preparation for their second annual move-in weekend yard sale.  Throughout the month of May 2012, the T2T team collected furniture, clothing, electronics and more from various drop-off points around the UNH campus, and even made special pick-ups at off-campus apartments in the surrounding towns.  The items were cleaned and stored over the summer and will be displayed for sale at the start of the fall semester.

They estimate that the 2011 T2T cycle diverted 57,000 pounds of perfectly usable items from the waste stream, and expect the numbers to be even higher for the 2012 cycle .  T2T is a self-sustaining program; the money made at the yard sale goes toward the costs of storing and cleaning items and running the following year’s sale, and expanding their program’s specific model to other campuses.  The few leftover items are kept in the community—either donated to local churches for their fall sales or to local secondhand shops.  You can get a feel for the entire process from this video.


Northeastern University also has a Trash 2 Treasure program, with item collection in the spring and a sale in the fall.  In a unique twist on engaging the student community, all student organizations that volunteer will receive a portion of the sale’s profits, proportional to the number of volunteer hours its members commit; everything else will go to a local charity.

At the University of Texas, the Campus Environmental Center’s T2T profits go toward campus environmental programming such as recycling and energy conservation initiatives.

This back to school season, consider ways to minimize your resource consumption—borrow items from friends and family, buy used, and if you have to buy new, keep your purchases local—it cuts down on fossil fuels used in production and transportation, and, according to a study by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP), for every $100 spent at a local, independent business, the additional benefit to the community is nearly double that of a purchase of the same amount at a chain.  Buying used usually eliminates the need for plastic and Styrofoam packaging (especially if you bring your own bag!), further eliminating waste.

Trash 2 Treasure programs keep usable items from unnecessarily filling limited landfill space, and prevent the use of fossil fuels in the production, packaging and shipping of new items.

Support your campus community, your home community, and our environment as a whole as you get back into the swing of things!  If your back-to-school list is all checked off, you can still help your local T2T sale by volunteering.  Can you think of any better way to kick off the year?!  And you never know what you’ll find…

Does your campus have a similar back-to-school yard sale?  Leave a comment to let us know!

Here are a few more sales that we know about, as featured in Generation E:  Students Leading for a Sustainble, Clean Energy Future:
• Ohio State Dump and Run
• Suffolk University Dump and Run