By Sydney Murray, Sustainability Office
During the final weeks of spring semester, the Sustainability Office collects gently used items from students moving out of the residence halls for our annual What Goes Around Comes Around (WGACA) pop-up thrift store, which is a free on-campus program designed to meet students’ basic needs, move toward a zero-waste campus, and promote a circular economy.
A circular economy refers to an economic system based on the reuse and regeneration of materials or products, especially as a means to prolong items’ lifecycles in a more sustainable or environmentally friendly way. “Campus move-in and move-out are both very high-waste processes,” Sustainability Engagement and Events Coordinator Kara Freedman shares. “So if we can do anything to give a second life to usable products, we want to do that and reduce our overall campus waste-to-landfill contribution.”
This year, the Sustainability Office collected over 8,000 pounds of donated materials from students, which otherwise would have likely ended up in a landfill. This included 2,668 pounds of clothing, 1,377 pounds of bedding, and over 20 refrigerators. All of those items were then made available to students to reclaim for free. Ninety percent of the collected reusable items were given back to students, and the other 10 percent went to Big Brothers Big Sisters. In addition to the incredible environmental benefits WGACA affords by prolonging and disrupting the waste-to-landfill cycle, Freedman shared that many students’ basic needs are simultaneously met through this program. “It’s really awesome seeing students take advantage of free stuff and be able to check needed items off their back-to-school shopping list. It’s all one less thing they have to buy,” she says.
The Sustainability Office also donated collected food and household items to the Feed U Pantry and the Basic Needs Collective for their year-round programs. The Feed U Pantry aims to ensure that no individuals at the university go hungry, and the Basic Needs Collective coordinates student connections to campus and community resources to help them meet their basic needs. Promoting and contributing to this campus-wide circular economy supports what President Randall refers to as “college town magic,” which centers a campus community that integrates living, learning and belonging. Furthermore, WGACA offers a fun opportunity for students to have a positive, communal experience at the start of the semester that inspires new connections and campus engagement.
The next WGACA pop-up thrift store will take place at the end of the spring 2024 semester. Donation collections will begin in April 2024, with the pop-up thrift store opening the first week of May 2024. Subscribe to the Sustainability Office’s monthly newsletter to stay up-to-date on these announcements and learn more.