Sunday, April 22nd, 2018

Sustainability & ME: USM’s mindful move out, a zero waste event?

Posted on May 04, 2016 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Lisa Willey, Sustainability & ME

Zero Waste: An increasingly popular expression. But what does it mean?  Last October, I attended the Zero Waste Conference organized by PLAN (Post Landfill Action Network), a non-profit group of student leaders who believe that waste is a logistics problem. The event was hosted at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

At the conference, a grad student from College of the Atlantic taught me to use the phrase “discarded resources” when referring to trash. When I participated in a workshop led by students from Rochester Technical Institute in New York majoring in management planning, they highlighted Move Out Day as an overwhelming source of discarded resources. To help cut down on the amount of items being thrown away, these students created drop off stations for unwanted items, which included everything from computers to cans of soup. They donated cleaning products and food to a local food pantry, and held a sale of the other items for students moving back in.

USM has implemented a very similar program called Mindful Move Out the past several years. How does it work? During the first week of May, “FreeCycle” areas are set up by USM Facilities in dorm common areas and lounges. As students prepare to move out, they can drop off anything in good condition to be reused instead of trashed at these FreeCycle stations. Unopened food, furniture, clothing, lamps, rugs, fans, bed risers, dishes, pots and pans, hangers, decorations, TVs, stereos, trashcans and clocks are some of the most common items received, but the bottom line is if it’s reasonably clean and someone else could use it, it should go to FreeCycle and not in the trash.

USM Facilities and Sustainability staff collect the items and store them over the summer to sell to incoming students who will be living on campus starting in the fall. This saves the university money, as it doesn’t have to pay to throw away perfectly functional items. It also saves students money, as they can buy used hangers, trash cans, bulletin boards, or rugs (just to name a few things) cheaper than they could buy them new. And again, it’s all staying out of the waste stream!

Broken electronics can also be left in the FreeCycle area, as long as they’re labeled “broken.”

The kind of forward-thinking that the Zero Waste Conference, PLAN, RTI, and USM share is exactly what is needed to address the problem of waste in our society too, beyond just college campuses.  Did I find out what, exactly, is Zero Waste? Yes – it’s a It’s a cradle to grave philosophy. When Zero Waste events or lifestyles are done right, nothing is ever truly trash. This requires one to ask hard questions before every purchase, such as, “What is this packaged in?  Where was this product made? Can I find this used?”

To learn more about USM’s Mindful Move Out, visit USM’s Sustainability webpage at:http://usm.maine.edu/sustainability/residence-hall-move-out

If you are interested in volunteering at the Common Ground Fair in the Compost and Recycling tent, please contact me at lisa.willey@maine.edu.

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