By: Deliah Schreiber, Staff Writer
The University of Southern Maine’s Department of Sustainability not only helps to reduce USM’s waste, but it also has developed a way for students, faculty and even the public to take advantage of university property that would otherwise be thrown away. The Surplus Store, formerly located in an off-campus rental space, has since been moved to the basement of Sullivan Gym on the Portland campus. There, you will find many items offered for free or at a discounted price, which funnels money back into the university that would have been used on waste removal.
Essentially, any university purchased items which are no longer used are sent to the Surplus Store. This could be anything from filing cabinets or computer chairs, which purchased new can be expensive. Then, those items can be purchased at discounted prices, and are even free to students and faculty, thus reducing the waste produced by USM.
Emily Eshner, Surplus Coordinator, is responsible for running the Surplus Store, and finds it can be a great resource, because there are a wide variety of products available. Not only does this store directly benefit the university, but it also brings together the community by connecting resources.
“I get people from all walks of life in the store – folks with small businesses, municipalities and nonprofits, teachers, DIYers, immigrants and refugees, students, techies, etc,” she explained. “It’s also promoting the sharing economy.”
Eshner also finds that many times a perfectly good item, such as a paper cutter, may no longer be needed in one department at the university but can be reallocated to another department. Again not only is this an efficient method of waste diversion, but it prevents the purchase of a new item, as it is immediately reused. According to Eshner, the Surplus Store “promotes reuse on the hierarchy of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ which is better than recycling, because we’re extending the lifecycle of things that already exist rather than using resources and energy to create new [things].”
The Surplus Store not only houses big items, but it is also stocked with school supplies for students such as three-ring binders, folders, envelopes, as well as bowls, mugs and water bottles. Financially, the Surplus Store can take a load off of college students’ backs, because items students need are offered for free.
In addition to items being offered for free to students, items are also sold at discounted prices to the “broader community,” which the university directly profits from.
“USM saves money through cost avoidance, by not paying to dispose of things, by reinvesting money made in [the] Surplus Store back into academic purchases,” Eshner explained.
The Surplus Store is open on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.