By Ed Brennen
UMass Lowell students diverted more than 5 tons of clothing, household goods and nonperishable food items from landfills to local nonprofit organizations through this spring’s move-out donation drive.
Organized by the Office of Sustainability, the spring drive collected 10,500 pounds of donations from students at residence halls across campus. Items were donated to Catie’s Closet, the Wish Project, the SayDaNar Community Development Center, the House of Hope, Mill City Grows and the Navigators Food Pantry. Anything that could not be donated was recycled at a plant in Framingham.
“We donated a lot of really great items to all of the organizations, and I am very happy with the outcome,” says junior political science major Zayna Basma, who served as student coordinator for the spring drive.
Since formalizing its move-out donation process in 2014, the university has collected 34,126 pounds of items at the end of spring semesters. Winter move-out drives have also generated several thousand pounds of donations.
“As the university continues to grow, it’s becoming increasingly important to reduce the amount of waste that we produce on campus,” says Rich Lemoine, executive director of Administrative Services, Environmental & Emergency Management. “Thanks to all of our residential students who left donations and to the hard work of our volunteers and staff, we are able to put our commitment to sustainability in action while supporting the needs of our community.”
Along with junior public health major Maya Chin, Basma set up collection bins at residence halls in early April. Throughout finals week and spring move-out, Basma and Chin transported the bins to a makeshift sorting site set up in the Broadway/Riverview parking lot on South Campus.
There, 30 student volunteers spent more than two weeks inside three metal shipping containers sorting items left behind by departing students — including lamps, stuffed animals, oscillating fans, clothes hangers and almost-new shoes — so they could be delivered to the local nonprofits.
After receiving a truckload of clothing, bedding, books and household goods, the House of Hope said thanks on Facebook: “It was a massive donation of gently used goods that will be very much appreciated by our lucky clients! Once again UMass Lowell proves to be a great neighbor!”
“Our main goal was to make it community-oriented,” says Basma, who recruited volunteers (including Honors College students and club sports participants) primarily through Facebook. “A lot of them signed up for two hours but then stayed for five or six because they wanted to help out.”
“It’s really eye-opening for the volunteers, because they get an idea of how much stuff is getting thrown away,” adds Chin, who ran last winter’s move-out drive, which collected nearly 5,000 pounds of donations.
Arif Rahman, a graduate student in environmental studies from Indonesia, was surprised to sort through a lot of almost-new items during his two days of volunteering.
“But it’s good that the community will get some benefit from it,” says Rahman, who learned about the volunteer opportunity from the International Student and Scholars Office. “It’s a nice chance to meet some new people and take part in an activity that will benefit others.”