Solutions to Tackle Move-Out Waste: A Guide for Residence Life

· by Ben Michalak

Trash mountain: an annual concern for residence life officials. As the end of the academic year approaches, so does the inevitable surge in waste as students vacate their residence halls for summer break or graduation. While trash and recyclables constitute the majority of move-out waste, the issue is further compounded by the disposal of still-usable items such as appliances, electronic devices, entertainment systems, and room-care items. Even high-value items can find their way into the trash pile, with many students preferring to avoid the hassle of transporting their possessions back home and start afresh the following year. The stats are alarming: each college student contributes 640 pounds of waste annual with a significant spike taking place at semester’s end. 

Reducing the size of this monolithic trash heap is a pressing task. However, as a residence life professional, it’s equally crucial to embrace sustainable practices to guide your waste management. Read on to learn more about a few key sustainable practices you can implement during your move-out procedures to minimize waste and repurpose resources effectively. 

Donation and repurposing programs

One of the ways you can prevent students from throwing away whatever appliances, tools, games, or recreational items they’ve accumulated over the year is by holding a donation or repurposing program. These events help put discarded items in the hands of students or departments who could use them in the future, rather than letting them contribute to the trash heap at the end of the year. 

Universities like University of California at Davis hold move-out donation drives for clothes, technology, and other items accrued over the course of a school year. Similarly, Santa Clara University hosts a range of donation drives for charitable organizations and repurposing events for on-campus reuse scheduled around student move-out. The University of Virginia has a program called Hoos ReUse, which provides students an opportunity to donate gently-used or unwanted items to community organizations in order to minimize the amount of waste sent to the landfill. These efforts not only curb waste but also provide valuable resources to those in need. 

In addition to donations, repurposing discarded items for future student use can reduce the need for those students to purchase the items entirely. 

Individual hall events 

It’s a great idea to leverage the presence of Living Learning Communities (LLCs) on your college campus to organize move-out events tailored to specific themes. Sustainability can be seamlessly integrated into these events, aligning with the focus of the respective LLCs.

For example, if a residence hall has an arts community LLC, hosting a move-out checklist paint & sip can help raise resident awareness for move-out procedures while sticking to the theme of arts community. Additionally, you can integrate donation programs and other sustainability measures into the event, like encouraging students to make use of year-end dumpsters instead of leaving trash in their room. 

Ultimately, sustainability in the residence hall is a year-round priority and can have a place at any type of event put on by resident assistants (RAs) or staff members alike. Investing in these smaller events throughout the year is a great way to build ongoing momentum for move-out and helps instill an ethos of sustainability in your residence halls. 

Cross-campus partnerships

Forge partnerships with campus sustainability organizations and other departments to transform student move-out into a collaborative endeavor. By engaging students in campus clean-up and waste management activities, Residence Life can foster a stronger connection to the broader community. Drawing inspiration from initiatives like the one proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Education, collaborative efforts can amplify awareness of campus-wide sustainability goals and encourage meaningful student involvement. 

Bonus: Planning for the years ahead

Anticipating future challenges and opportunities is essential for sustainable residence life management. If you’re tracking year-end waste and most of it includes household cleaning supplies, appliances, entertainment systems, or recreational equipment, it could be time to evaluate your in-hall student rental capabilities. If you find that only a handful of students rent inventory from the RA desk, you may want to consider RecRe. Our automated platform breaks down the barriers that exist between students and common, everyday residence and recreational items by offering free rentals and a sustainable solution to campus waste. 

Interested in exploring all-in-one solutions to campus sustainability issues and rental management? Contact us today.