GUEST COLUMN: Make the most of move-out: give back, reduce waste


Move-out is a messy time. It’s stressful, rushed and wasteful.

Every spring, university employees and Facilities Management staff meet and discuss plans for move-out. Part of the conversation involves adding more residence hall dumpsters to prepare for an influx of garbage.

On average, campus produces 50% more garbage between April and the month of move-out. This increase reflects an overwhelming, unnecessary amount of waste, in addition to a careless disregard for the environment and the community we leave behind in the summer.

Although the semester is over, it is always our responsibility to be mindful of our impact on our community.

Fortunately, move-out doesn’t need to be a source of stress if we think sustainably and take preemptive action. With a number of donation drives, spring cleaning is an opportunity to pause, declutter, reduce waste and give back to a good cause.

“For some students, (disposing of things responsibly) is either inconvenient, or they run out of room in their car, so there will be very usable items [that get put] into a dumpster,” said Luanne Goffnet, Calkins Residence Hall Director. “We've had to change how many dumpsters we have and how often those dumpsters are emptied as a result of that.”

Although it’s easy to toss things in the trash and drive away, this campus-wide abandonment has real-world implications. Goffnet said a colleague described seeing a family put their five-year-old child in a CMU dumpster to pull out students’ discarded items.

“[Hearing that] broke my heart,” Goffnet said. “I thought, ‘there's got to be a better way for us to get these things to these families in need if they're so desperate that they're going into dumpsters.’”

As a result, Goffnet has organized annual donation drives since the 90s. This year, all residence hall lobbies will be accepting student donations from April 29 to May 7. The following items will be donated to the Mount Pleasant Strickler Center and the CMU Student Food Pantry:

● Gently worn clothes and shoes

● Non-perishable food

● Dishes and small kitchen items

● School supplies

● Electronic waste for recycling

Students can also give directly to nonprofits or thrift stores of their choosing, but there are plenty of ongoing opportunities across campus:

● The Office of LGBTQ Services and Gender Equity Programs is hosting a clothing donation event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 20 in the Bovee University Center 108. Students can donate clothing or “shop” for free gender-affirming clothes. Cookies and coffee will also be offered to students who stop by.

● The Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center is always taking non-perishable food donations for the CMU Student Food Pantries in the Bovee University Center. Visit the pantry’s website to see accepted items.

Although this is an undeniably busy time of the year, I encourage students to take a breath, assess their personal spaces and explore the little ways they can give back. Donation drives are an amazing opportunity to support people and help the planet, so take advantage of them while there’s still time this semester and drop-off sites all across campus.

“There are many little things we take for granted every day, and there's many people that don't have those things,” Goffnet said. “So we can make sure to give them to the community, to help someone finish a class and have a winter coat for the winter. These are all things that can be life saving.”

Teresa Homsi works for Facilities Management and the Office for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion on sustainability education and initiatives. For more information about specific projects, visit Central Sustainability.