Waste reduction on university campuses at Dutchess schools

It happens every year.

A student spends his last two weeks on campus cleaning dorms and packing his things.

Things that aren’t worth packing often end up in dumpsters. Carpet. Bedding. Appliances. Shelving. Food.

This year was different at Marist College.

Several student organizations have teamed up to collect the items that their peers piled up in halls of residence. Instead of throwing them away, the items were sorted, packed into trucks and donated to local organizations, such as Hudson River Housing and Dutchess Outreach.

Each year, thousands of pounds of solid waste are created at the end of the college academic years. But, several area schools are taking steps to reduce that total.

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While many of these efforts are organized by student organizations, higher education institutions are formalizing sustainability efforts to find new homes for items collected by their students. Some area colleges even track the amount collected.

Clothing, shelves, books, and kitchen utensils are stocked for the incoming student population who would otherwise need to purchase the same items, or are distributed within the local community.

“When students leave campus at the end of the semester, they leave behind a lot of things that normally end up in the trash and end up clogging the landfills. And when so many people in Poughkeepsie are in need, it’s especially unnecessary. “said Kaitlyn Wiehe. , who helped organize the collection at Marist.

Marist College students organized an end-of-year giving drive to collect items that students would normally throw away to donate to local nonprofit organizations.

Wiehe will be a senior and works with the college’s Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership. She relied on the idea of ​​a former student who last year set up collection sites and donated all items to Mansion Square Park.

Marist collected enough to fill five trucks, Wiehe said, which were delivered to nonprofits and thrift stores in the area.

“We were able to restock a lot of our supplies, including the pantry, which we keep for emergencies for everyone, Marsha Eldridge, resident services manager at Hudson River Housing, said of the donation received from Marist.

“Due to limited space, most items were distributed soon after receiving them. Families felt like shopping and who doesn’t like shopping, especially when it’s free “, she added.

Sustainable efforts

Estimates place the amount of solid waste incurred by the average college student at 640 pounds per year, with the non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council finding in a 2019 study that students wasted 112 pounds of food per year.

Bard College sophomore Precious Star, of Wanaque, New Jersey, packs clothes that have been sorted for Bard's free-use store on May 26, 2022. As students leave campus, store staff free-to-use has placed collection bins outside the dorms for students to donate usable items.

Area colleges have helped restock the shelves and stores of local nonprofits by donating what students leave behind when they return home, which can add up.

Colleges are also restocking their own shelves with items that can be used by freshmen coming to campus next semester. Bard College has a free store and pantry where students can pick up an item, no questions asked. Vassar runs a “swap shop” where outgoing students can pass on items to returning students the following semester.

“Knowing that we’re a college and we’re going to have students coming in every year, students are going to buy the exact same things, it’s really important that we track to see how much is left, so we know how could be repurposed” said Cora Kenfield, Vassar’s assistant dean for strategic planning.In the past, the college has tracked items used by students.

Bard College incoming seniors, from left, Jack Loud and Quincy Ross sort through a bin of donations around campus for Bard's free-use store on May 26, 2022.

Bard College tries to match items that may be needed in the community, such as donated binders, which are distributed to the Red Hook Central School District, or used towels to an animal shelter. The college also ends up with between 60 and 100 abandoned bikes each year, which are donated to organizations in Red Hook and Kingston.

The colleges also work with outside organizations, such as Grad Bag and Helpsy, which reuse or recycle what students leave behind. Grad Bag works with colleges in New York and Boston and organizes “giveaway” events. Helpsy is a for-profit company that collects clothing and shoes that are either sold in thrift stores or used as insulation or padding.

Bard College incoming seniors, from left, Quincy Ross and Jack Loud unload campus donation bins for Bard's free-use store on May 26, 2022.

“(Helpsy) is my backup plan,” said Laurie Husted, sustainability manager at Bard College. “So they came (Wednesday) and took 100 bags of clothes, plus a full Helpsy (bin) that we couldn’t move last year.”

Saba Ali: [email protected]: 845-451-4518: @MsSabaAli.