When students move out at the end of the year, they leave behind a lot. Years ago, most of the stuff that the students left behind ended up in a landfill. However, thanks to waste reduction and recycling efforts at Amherst College, students are leaving behind less stuff, and more of the items that they do leave behind are diverted back to local communities.
The first step is ensuring that students keep items they need for future years. Too many of the items that used to get left behind were items that simply didn’t fit in the trunk of the car or were too expensive to ship home at the last minute. Three things have helped to reduce this:
• The recycling program starts advertising earlier to make sure students have enough lead time to plan for the end of the year before they get too busy with final exams, papers and theses.
• There has been an increase in off-campus storage options. The College does not endorse any particular storage company, but there is no doubt that student-initiated storage options like All College Storage and MAStorage have helped to convince students that over-the-summer storage is a viable option. With these storage options, students are supporting local businesses instead of filling local landfills.
• Improvements in technology have changed the nature of what students have. Twenty years ago, packing up your computer, your television, your stereo and your music collection required a moving van. Now, for many students it merely means folding up their laptop and carrying away their smart phone. That makes keeping stuff at the end of the year a much more viable option for many students.
For the clothing and other items that are still left behind, more and more of those items are returned to local communities to help people in need. Each year, the College collects between 10,000 and 20,000 pounds of clothing and other donations. Once collected these items are picked up by several local charitable organizations, primarily the Franklin Area Survival Center and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Holyoke.
The Franklin Area survival center provides free food to needy individuals and families in the Franklin County Area. Franklin County is home to 26 communities north of Amherst. Many of those communities are rural and almost 13% of the population is living with food insecurity. Franklin County has among the three highest poverty rates of any county in Massachusetts, and is among the bottom three in median income. Clothing and household items that are donated to the Center are sold at an extremely reasonable cost at the center’s thrift shop. The proceeds from the thrift shop are then used to support the food pantry, which in turn provides support to hundreds of families and individuals.
At Big Brothers Big Sisters, volunteers serve hundreds of children from Hampden County and the towns of South Hadley and Granby. The benefits of mentoring are measurable and significant. Children who have a Big Brother or Big Sister are:
• 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs
• 27% less likely to start drinking
• 52% less likely to skip a day of school
• 37% less likely to skip a class
The clothing and other items donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters are re-sold through Savers stores in Western Mass. and Conn. Profits from those sales support Big Brothers Big Sisters.
On Earth Day, Facilities Management staff will be distributing bags to student rooms for the collection and donation of unwanted clothing. Simply place any unwanted clothes into the plastic bags, label the bag to designate it for donations and leave your bags in the common area or lounge on the first floor.