Moving Out on a Green Note

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 - 16:00

As students return home at the end of the academic year, they often discover they've accumulated many more books, CDs, and wardrobe additions than the family van can hold—creating a challenge for the College when it comes to their discarded leftovers.

"Student move-out is an important time of year from a waste management perspective," said Roger Guzowski, Five College recycling manager. "Mount Holyoke generates nearly a month’s worth of extra waste as the students move out, which leaves the College with a lot of potential recycling and diversion."

green bin

"While students are here, life on campus is their whole world," he added. "They often forget that all that stuff has to get packed up and either stored or shipped home at the end of the year. We spend a lot of time reminding students that everything from their room doesn’t fit into the trunk of a car. And even less fits in carry-on luggage."

One of the things Guzowski and his colleagues have done with some success is to promote the need for shipping and storage alternatives earlier in the spring semester.

"This gives students more lead time to plan those arrangements before they get bogged down with final exams and it gets too late," he explained. "We're seeing a decrease in the amount of waste left behind since we started doing this."

End-of-year diversion programs at Mount Holyoke focus on both recycling and donation, according to Guzowski. Students have a long-standing tradition of gifting their unwanted items to younger students as they move out of their residence halls each year. For those who have an unwanted item but no one specific to give it to, there are "free" bins in each residence hall where they can drop off unwanted items and/or take something they're interested in. This year the College's student eco-reps piloted a campuswide version of gifting--a "Mega Free Bin"--during the annual Pangy Day April 30.

"Students often go free-binning for fun, hunting for gems," explained student coordinator Allison Miller. "The eco-reps decided to capitalize on this and make a large-scale free bin at Pangy Day. We went to all the residence halls and collected what was in the free bins. In addition, through fliers and word of mouth, we asked students to bring clothes and small unwanted items to us on Pangy Day. They were then free to come and rummage through the items and take whatever they wanted."

Added Miller, "During the event we were able to talk to and educate students about end-of-the-year waste and clean-out. Afterwards we brought the unclaimed items to facilities to donate."

Guzowski said those remaining items--unwanted clothes, shoes, and occasional tapestries, bedding, and small throw rugs--from the residence hall bins are collected and, once students have moved out, all are donated to Providence Ministries, a local charitable organization that operates three emergency shelters in Holyoke.

Guzowski and his team strive to reuse or recycle everything that's left behind each May. Even unused laundry detergent is used; it's left in the laundry rooms to be used by participants in summer programs and conferences. Other College recycling efforts include:

  • Paper—"a LOT of paper," according to Guzowski. "Though there's less than there used to be because of all the electronic communication, there are still a lot of old periodicals--like the stacks of Wall Street Journals from an econ class--and old notes, handouts, and posters that get left behind as recycling."
  • Special collection bins in each trunk room to recycle books.
  • Broken and/or unwanted student refrigerators are recycled as scrap metal.
  • Old computers and electronic equipment are collected for recycling. "We're seeing a distinct trend with most students having laptops and (putting) entertainment on small portable devices like iPods, more of this is getting crammed into the car or carry-on to be brought home, and less is being left behind," said Guzowski.
  • Batteries and fluorescent tubes are recycled.
  • Any accumulated bottles and cans from student rooms are recycled, as are all those from Commencement and pre-Commencement activities.

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