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Hanley Sustainability Institute

From dorm to donation: Move Out at the University of Dayton

By Shannon Dennemann

It’s the last week of school. You are frantically studying for finals, finishing projects and hoping to pass your classes. You're attending end-of-year celebrations, excited about what summer holds and saying bye to friends you will not see for a while. In the midst of all this, you also have to face the potentially mountainous task of moving out.

The smallest dorms can be tricky to pack up and move out, even without the chaos of the end of the year. It can be tempting to pack the necessities and things you want and throw away replaceable items. Mirrors, small kitchen appliances and extra food can all be bought when moving back in August, right?

There are many reasons why large amounts of household items get thrown away, including transportation issues, time constraints, etc. But, what happens to all the perfectly usable items that people do not move?

When thrown in the trash they will go into the landfill, trapping the materials and creating a nonstop need for more of those products to be produced.

To mitigate this waste, the University of Dayton holds a Move Out Collection every year around campus. An effort of this scale is a large undertaking, requiring collaboration between the Hanley Sustainability Institute, Office of Energy and Sustainability, Center for Social Concern and Housing and Residence Life.

This year, the collection efforts ran from April 30-May 6, covering the duration of finals week through post-graduation. Students could drop off as many objects as they have in their house, including clothes, small kitchen appliances, shelf-stable food, unopened personal hygiene items, decor and many others at 17 locations in dorm and apartment lobbies and on select porches.

MoveOut, HSI, 2024

The results each year are astonishing. Over 14,571 pounds (7.3 tons) of household and personal items were collected and donated to our partners at Goodwill. Another 5,000 unopened food, beverage and cleaning and personal hygiene supplies were collected and donated to both the Food 4 Flyers pantry and the UD Summer Appalachia Program. These donations will support the food pantry’s operations for the entire summer and into the next school year. The collection effort aligns with the goals of the University, including the Catholic mission to protect our common home, and the goals set forward by the Campus Operations Sustainability Goals from the Office of Energy and Sustainability to reduce waste tonnage and increase diversion rates.

I volunteered for multiple shifts and worked in multiple roles including donation pickup and item sorting. As a freshman, this was my first year with the collection, so I did not know what to expect. It was an exciting experience to see that I was making an impact by reducing not only what is thrown into landfills, but also what will have to be produced and bought new. There was also the bonus of being in control of a walkie-talkie and using a liftgate, which made the work more fun. I had the opportunity to meet many people from various areas of UD. Every person who helped with the collection was there for a different reason, some with the main goal of reducing waste, some wanting to help others get supplies they need, and some gathering supplies they need for a service trip.

While everyone came in with a potentially different motive, the main goal was the same for each individual: divert as much as possible from the landfill and get it to people who can use it.

Hearing from all the unique perspectives added an interesting depth to sustainability that can be easy to forget. As a sustainability major, I sometimes find myself focusing on the physical and material aspects of sustainability but can forget that the principles of sustainability are closely tied to communities. Focusing on the amount of materials diverted from the landfill is important, but I saw that it is also important to remember how many items were donated to be accessible to others is also critical to look at. This effort highlights the importance of maintaining the intertwined aspects of sustainability, sustaining environmental quality and also the quality of human life.

Photos: Top, Volunteers help pick up donations from a porch in the UD student neighborhood; Middle, Move out team members (left to right) Tess Esposito, Sarah Richard, Cassie Austin, Meaghan Crowley; Bottom, Fully stocked Food4Flyers on campus food pantry.

MoveOut, HSI, 2024

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