From Sb’s Desk: Move-out, move-in, and moving waste out of the landfill

Finals week doesn’t feel all that long ago. Commencement shivers of excitement and unseasonably cold weather are still fresh in my mind. Finally, with the mass exodus of students, there always comes a mad rush of move-out waste and diversion efforts from the sustainability team. We try to encourage spring cleaning as soon as spring break is over: recycle the old notes, sell the old furniture, and send the broken electronics to the Custodial department via the brown bins in common rooms. As for everything else, COWabunga is here for you. This program for donations to Goodwill provides cloth hampers in each common room from the last day of classes through Commencement Monday. Volunteers periodically empty the donations into a visiting truck from Goodwill. Despite frequent pick-ups, donation bins are consistently overflowing, as is student generosity. During finals week of 2012, students donated 382 items to Goodwill.

This year, we decided to set the bar higher: to collect 400 donations. I knew it would be a challenge to move an even larger volume of donated material in the same short period of time. To allow for some growth of our collection capacity, we requested almost double the number of cloth hampers from Goodwill. With the same number of volunteers, in the same amount of time, we collected a grand total of 442 student donations in May, 2013. Goodwill staff estimated the value of the donation to be $9,253. Congratulations, COW students, you’ve exceeded everyone’s expectations. Thank you for using the Bunga bins as an easy way to do the right thing. Now, what do you think about shooting for 450 items in 2014?

I’m getting ahead of myself. Here we are, move-in time again, and those big green dumpsters are ready and waiting. We order them special to accommodate for waste generated at move-in: all those plastic wrappers, Styrofoam packaging, and lots and lots of cardboard, everything from unwrapping your new school supplies. Did you know that all of our extra dumpsters are for recycling? We’ve collected a lot of recyclable material over the years: 7.2 tons in 2010, 4.8 tons in 2011 and 8.4 tons last year. Could you imagine if all that went to a landfill? Just from move-in? Well, it used to! Good thing our Grounds department is looking out for you, and the Earth. How about we bring those waste totals down a bit this year? Don’t forget, you’ll just be dragging it back out in 9 months.

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