Badgers Move Out Sustainably

Helping organize area rugs during move-outThis May, over 7,800 students moved out of the Residence Halls during an 8-day period, along with all the items that helped their dorm room feel like home. Thanks to the Sustainability Move Out program organized by University Housing, their unwanted items did not go to waste.

Sustainability Move Out is an initiative to divert waste from the landfill, educate event participants on sustainable behaviors, and support the goals of campus and community donation partners. Each year 10 collection sites allow residents to donate and recycle their unwanted items. The sites are staffed by students, professional UW staff, and community member volunteers. The volunteers monitor sites, answer residents’ questions, organize donations, and deconstruct futons for recycling.

This year the collective efforts of 142 volunteers, University Housing, UW Physical Plant, the Office of Sustainability, 12 campus and community partners, two recycling partners, and one student course kept over 126,000 pounds of materials out of the landfill. This collaboration eventually resulted in a 50% diversion rate of material from the landfill.

Housing engaged 57 students from a sustainability course to apply what they learned over the semester during move-out. These students provided 40% of the total 608 volunteer hours contributed, playing a large role in making Sustainability Move Out a success. Because many of these students are underclassmen, their volunteer experience encourages a culture of sustainability on campus.

Futon collection on move-outIn addition to fostering Housing’s core value of stewardship, the program is also financially responsible. By donating and recycling items rather than dumping them in the landfill, campus saved $3,024 in landfill fees and gained $257 in revenue from recycling metal. The program also has positive financial impacts for future Housing residents and the community; 203 futons and 373 area rugs were made available to community members, giving the items a second life and preventing the purchase of new items. In addition, the 170 functional microwaves collected during Sustainability Move Out were donated to campus and community partners such as Open Doors for Refugees, Nehemiah, Madison Friends of International Students, and the U.S Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs in addition to University Apartment residents and international and low-income students for use in the fall semester.

Sustainability Move Out also provides social benefits for the campus and community by supporting the goals of non-profit donation partners. This year, more than 3,200 pounds of food donations from residents will help The Open Seat Food Pantry and St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry provide for food-insecure students and community members. University Housing also partnered with St. Vincent de Paul, Goodwill, and Roteract-UW to donate nearly 64,000 pounds of clothes, housewares, books, and more to support their goals of helping those in need.

The impact of Sustainability Move Out is clearly visible through the amount of material diverted from the landfill and even more visible in the gratitude expressed by our donation partners. Thank you to all who offered their time and effort to support the donation and recycling sites this year; we couldn’t have done it without you!