As college students, we understand the need to stay within our budget when it comes to back-to-school shopping. But before you make that run to Target, you might want to follow the lead of other green-savvy students and check out your local dumpster.
According to a report by USA TODAY, back to school is the second-biggest “season” for retail sales with college students and their families who planned on spending an average of $808.71 on dorm essentials last fall.
So rather than opting for annual trips to Wal-Mart or Bed Bath and Beyond, some students are scavenging through their local dumpsters, yard sales, flea markets and consignment shops to furnish their college homes. Universities like Princeton, Penn State, NYU, UNH, and Cornell are even picking up on this trend by instituting recycling programs targeted to dorm furnishing.
While some students might not relish in the idea of rummaging through dumpster trash or browsing the racks of a thrift store, junior Alex Freid has no problem in making use out of what other people have tossed out.
Freid and his group of dumpster divers have organized the University of New Hampshire’s Trash 2 Treasure program – a new student-led program aimed at reducing waste on campus. Their two-day yard sale of collected unwanted dorm room essentials, which was held over move-in weekend this year, brought in $11,750 and diverted an estimated 57,000 pounds of trash from landfills.
“Over and over, I heard ‘wow, I can’t believe someone would get rid of this,’” Freid said.
The program was originally organized as a way to address the sheer amount of waste produced by their classmates. At UNH, more than 6,000 students who live on campus pack up their bags and move out, clearing out their dorm rooms of furniture, clothes, small appliances…and dumping the rest. On average, according to the UNH Department of Facilities Operation and Maintenance, students throw away 25 tons of trash per month. But in May, the end of the academic year, this number spikes to 105 tons. .
“Last year at the end of the year while walking around campus a few members of our group observed the dramatic number of overflowing dumpsters,” says Emily Spognardi, a sophomore and member of SEAC. “They were extremely concerned about the amount of waste that our student body was putting out but were more distraught by how much of it was perfectly reusable.”
UNH is only one of many such programs nationwide.
NYU’s annual “Green Apple Move Out” collection drive diverted 73 tons of reusable goods from landfills in 2009. Penn State’s “Trash to Treasure” sale over the past 10 years has saved nearly 1.5 million pounds of goods from being shipped to a landfill.
So what can you do? Well, here are some tips and tricks of the trade to decorating and even furnishing your dorm room with recycled goods.
Raid garages of friends and family
If you ask, there’s a good chance that your friends and family have piles of old stuff hoarded away in their attics, basements and garages. Maybe you can ask your grandmother to use her gorgeous, if not a little dusty, armchair in her attic or maybe your friend just upgraded to the newest TV model and has no use for his old one. Most likely, they’ll be more than willing.
Shop second hand
Why buy something at retail price if you can find it at half the cost? Community swaps and yard sales are a great way of cutting back costs on everything – from furniture and electronics to clothes and accessories. Flea markets are another great resource, some of which operate indoors and all year round. And don’t forget to scour the racks at local thrift stores and consignment shops! At the same time, clear out your room of old clothes, electronics and accessories. You can hold a yard sale, trade-in at a consignment shop, or even donate old stuff for a tax deduction.
Check out these other online resources for trading, selling and buying old stuff:
Have a little do-it-yourself attitude
“How can I use this?” Many old items simply need a little re-visioning and DIY creativity to be made new again. That armchair might be missing a leg, but strip off the fabric for a cheap wall cover. And that coffee table might look a little worn-out, but a new coat of varnish should do the trick. Don’t be afraid to strip off some paint and fix the cracks to completely reinvent it. Sure, this might take some extra time and effort, but you’ll have yourself a unique piece to show off to your friends!
For additional personal touches to your dorm room, check out these fun and fast DIY dorm decorating ideas from how to make a dry-erase board using a laminated place mat to making a bulletin board out of old wine corks.
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