Tech’s Sustainable Move Out Initiative had a particularly strong turnout this year, with over 4,400 lbs of food collected for charity. This was the highest tally of non-perishable food in the program’s history.
In addition to food collection, members who took part in the initiative contributed 1300 lbs of clothing and household goods and nearly 5000 lbs of paper. Over the past 12 years, the program has collected everything from food, books, paper and clothing to E-waste during finals week.
“This year it was a pleasant surprise that we collected so much food, especially because of the way the economy is right now,” said Cindy Jackson, manager of solid waste management and recycling.
Jackson attributes the increase in food donations in part to a student-led push to move the food collection barrels inside dormitories and apartments. In the past, collection barrels were located in centralized locations on both sides of campus, making it difficult for students to access them and donate food.
This was also the first year that the Greek community and North Avenue residents participated in the program.
Victoria Au, a fourth-year CS major, spearheaded the idea to expand collection sites and to move the collection barrels indoors. She worked together with a team of students to convince Housing to move the collection sites indoors and get 29 Greek organizations to participate in the program.
“The way that these kids were able to get things done was a great example of how the power of students can impact the campus and create change,” Jackson said. Previously, the lack of student support meant that the program could not garner enough interest within Housing to move collection sites indoors.
“The toughest part of the project was probably distributing and recollecting the food barrels after they were full,” said Maria Linderoth, the program coordinator for the Sustainable Move Out Initiative. She stated that although distributing the empty barrels to campus residences was relatively easy, the department lacked the sufficient manpower needed to move all of the goods out of residence halls. This year, a team of students volunteered for the program and helped to carry off the donated goods in small loads. However, this process was very time consuming and inconvenient for all parties involved.
Another major problem that confronted the group was the unpredictable weather. The program had to get rid of several days’ worth of clothing due to bad weather. This was because the clothing and paper recycling sites were still located outdoors and were susceptible to rain.
Next year, the program aims to continue its success and bring in even more donations from all quarters. “I think this was a good year in terms of getting the Greek community and the North Avenue Apartments involved, but I think that next year we should try to get all of the Greek community involved and try to get more people to donate their unused goods,” Jackson said.
Jackson and her department have also been meticulously gathering data from waste sources on campus and hope to create a system that targets students by dorm or apartment and challenges them to reduce their waste. “We are going to try to make it so that we can tell students on average the amount of waste that he or she diverts to a landfill and try to get them to reduce that amount,” Jackson said.
Another plan that the sustainable move out group has to increase donations is to try to get more student volunteers and to advertise the program better. The group was able to get modest funds from RHA for the event, but according to Au, they could have done a better job of advertising the event and making more people aware of it. In addition, the group hopes to move collection sites for clothing and E-waste indoors, as to minimize any effect of bad weather on the donations.
“We’re going to try again next year to get as many people to donate as we can and hopefully we can get even better results,” Jackson said.
“It was efficient and easy to participate in,” said Olivia Cropper, a third-year BMED major. “Last year everything was pretty disorganized and the donation bins were not in conspicuous places. This year everything just fell in place.”