This June, over 4,200 College students grabbed their suitcases, boxes, and packing tape and performed an annual migration that, in one week, empties out seven residence halls across Hyde Park. It’s as busy as it sounds.
Residence hall rooms come furnished, but students must decide what to do with the lamps, rugs, and home goods they added to personalize their spaces. They must downsize wardrobes that accumulated over the year.
What results is high volume — and high impact for waste reduction and diversion.
The end of year move-out process requires significant choreography from the staff of Housing & Residence Life. This spring, they decided it was worth the extra coordination required to continue a successful Goodwill donations program and uphold the campus commitment to sustainability.
“Our students are passionate about having a donation option,” said Meaghan Ward, Associate Director of Mail & Desk Operations. “The solution was to take over multi-use community space like music rooms and lounges and designate them for blue and black donation bins,” she said.
“It’s a good feeling to be environmentally conscious while moving out. And it also feels good that the items the students invested in for the time they were here can go somewhere other than the trash. They can pay it forward,” she said.
In all, 8,876 pounds of items were donated this year: 3,380 pounds of home goods and 5,356 pounds of clothing. Over the course of the week, three semi-trailers arrived at the residence halls from the Goodwill Operations Center in Milwaukee to collect the overflowing bins for distribution.
From an operations standpoint, redirecting 4.4 tons to reuse reduced pressure on custodial labor and waste hauling costs. It impacted overfilling or having to rent dumpsters. “In this way, donations help multiple challenges at a time when everybody is busy working to turn over the units for summer conferences,” said Ward.
The program will continue at the end of this upcoming academic year. “Goodwill considered it a success, and so did we,” she said. “Now that we have the right people in place, we can plan out an even more thorough campaign to educate students on what can and cannot be donated and how to recycle e-waste.”
It is a continuation of sustainability efforts in Housing & Residence Life that foster social and environmental stewardship, including mattress recycling and green procurement. In 2022, 750 mattresses were donated to the Chicago Furniture Bank and replaced with new mattresses made from 100% recyclable materials.