This campus sustainability program tackles student trash

Freestores are the latest campus sustainability initative

In the push to go green, some colleges have established thrift stores and move-in sales to give usable items destined for the landfill a chance at a new home.

These sustainability initiatives not only save tons of waste from the landfill, they also save students money, Joanna Nesbitt writes for the Washington Post.

Wilfrid Laurier University's sustainability office, for example, recently piloted a pop-up Freestore in early September to eliminate waste on campus. The store's inventory included things like rugs, lamps, dishes, furniture—all items donated by students moving off campus at the end of the school year.

"It’s a way to interrupt the cycle of goods that are going to be used and then thrown away," says Tyler Plante, outreach and program coordinator for Laurier's sustainability office. "It ultimately serves the purpose of reducing waste but also being an affordable option for students to get things they need," he says.

The Freestore may be particularly helpful for international students who "don’t necessarily have a lot of money or know where to go to get the things they need to have a good experience here," says student Rosemary Brockett, who helped organize the event. "I think this will be great to support all kinds of students," she adds.

This college found millions in savings from going green

At the University of Maryland's (UMD) first-ever Free Store, which opened in August, international students got to take the first look. Like Laurier, UMD's free store is stocked with donated items from students who moved off campus last spring.

"We're just trying to make the move in process a little easier on folks when they first get here. It's a big move and it costs a lot of money," says Jonna Korpi, a coordinator at the UMD sustainability office. "They (students) come with just their suitcases basically and nothing else. Some of them have a place to live but some of them have lived on air mattresses for an entire semester," she adds.

"When I heard about it, I felt very excited," says international student Suman Dhkodhaballa. "This is going to be a lot of help. I come from India and every dollar counts," says Dhkodhaballa.

Campus move-in sales and thrift stores also offer students an opportunity to hone their leadership skills, writes Nesbitt.

Ethan Koval, the student director of Rochester Institute of Technology's annual move-in sale, says running the sustainability program is similar to leading a nonprofit. And his involvement in the program helped him win post-college job offers, writes Nesbitt.

"It’s my dream," says Koval, "to have every college campus have a program like this because it’s had a huge impact—environmentally, financially and for leadership opportunities" (Holt, WDIO, 8/16; Nesbitt, Washington Post, 9/30; WLU News, 8/7; Melton, UMD News, 8/15).  

Keep reading: 2 ways to make your sustainability efforts more... sustainable


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