It's a common problem on college campuses: When live-in students leave at the end of the year, they ditch large amounts of stuff. They throw away piles of clothing, pounds of perfectly good food, and they abandon furniture in hallways, at the curb, or by the trash.
Much of it ends up in a landfill, with the schools footing the cost.
But things work a little differently at Rochester Institute of Technology. For the second year, students led an effort to collect pretty much anything reusable and store it until the end of summer, when students come back to the dorms and apartments. Then they put the stuff up for sale; this year's sale is August 16-20 in the school's Clark Gym. (Weapons, drug paraphernalia, unidentified liquids or powders, and underwear are excluded.)
The effort is known as Goodbye, Goodbuy! and the point is to divert waste from landfills, says Erica Hickey, the group's media liaison. RIT is one of the largest universities in the country to do this sort of sale and collection project, she says.
"We have over 18,000 students on campus, so it's a lot of waste," Hickey says. "There definitely is a need for the program."
Last year, Goodbye, Goodbuy! volunteers pulled in 35 tons or 70,000 pounds of items that they were able sell this past fall. The sale raised $21,000, which was reinvested in this year's program.
Student and staff volunteers finished this year's collection on Sunday. By midday Wednesday they had collected 4,200 pounds from the dorms. During a three-hour shift Thursday morning, they pulled in 3,000 additional pounds, not counting furniture from the apartment complexes.
The sale helps students get what they need, from basic supplies to small fridges, for less than the items would cost new. It also helps cut down on the packing waste that RIT staff has to deal with when students move back in, says Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability advisor to RIT president Bill Destler and the group's academic advisor.
"Ultimately, it's been a really positive opportunity to get the campus community engaged in sustainability efforts in a very different way," Cardinal says. "And I think it is very eye-opening for our community to realize how much is wasted and how many opportunities there are to avoid that waste and get it into hands that can really benefit from it."
Goodbye, Goodbuy! also collects nonperishable food items for RIT's FoodShare Center, where any student, staff member, and faculty can swap food items or get food if they need it. It also collects toiletries and cleaning supplies for distribution to area shelters.