Items collected from students during last year’s residence hall move-out were sold within hours at the UA’s first Wildcat Welcome Week Rummage Sale.
The rummage sale, held Friday and Saturday, was a part of a new, sustainability-focused initiative created by UA Residence Life and the Office of Sustainability to keep products out of landfills.
In the past, Residence Life has left bins in residence halls during move-out week so that students can donate unwanted items to non-profit organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Tucson’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.
But even with these bins, there were still items going into trash cans that weren’t necessarily trash, according to Julia Rudnick, the coordinator of campus sustainability programs.
“Students don’t know what could be donated,” Rudnick said. “They don’t know that there’s value left in that half-empty bottle of shampoo.”
To change that, Rudnick began working last year with Residence Life to hire a group of student workers who could monitor dumpsters during move-out. Rudnick used leftover money from a grant given to the Green Team, a group of UA students focused on making events more sustainable, to hire over two dozen students for the project.
These students were stationed outside of dumpsters by the five Highland dorms from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., May 5-13, to sort through bags of items that moving students brought them. They salvaged recyclables and items that could be donated or sold.
In total, 18,000 pounds worth of items were rescued from trash bags, according to Rudnick.
Three students worked throughout the summer to sort and clean the collected items— some of which were donated to local charities.
Over 2,000 pounds of clothes and bedding went to Big Brothers Big Sisters, according to Michael Beauregard, a PPEL sophomore and one of the students who sorted through items this summer. Around 1,100 pounds of food were collected and donated to the Campus Pantry.
Items were also donated to the Women’s Resource Center, the local veteran center and a local women’s homeless shelter, Rudnick said.
The remaining items were sold at UA’s Surplus Property Storefront located on 34th Street, which typically vends excess university property.
The demand for the items on sale was higher than anticipated and the majority of the items sold out within three to four hours, according to the project leader for green purchasing in the Office of Sustainability.
The sale was planned to last two days, but because of the sale’s success, the second day was dedicated to selling the items from UA Surplus.
While some universities who host rummage sales donate the profits from their sale to charities, the profit from UA’s rummage sale will be used to fund the collection of items during next year’s move-out.
The goal, Rudnick said, is to have the sale be self-sustaining and also contribute to the UA’s policy of 100% Engagement.
Rudnick said that students’ participation in working and collecting for the sale can teach them valuable lessons about a self-sustaining business model.
While her eventual goal is to expand the project to all 23 dorms on campus, this year Rudnick hopes to extend the project beyond the five dorms in the Highland district to those in the Park district as well.
She was not alone in her dreams of expansion.
“As soon as the morning started and we saw the lines, we were like, ‘We’re going to communicate that this was just a pilot project, and we want to do better next year,’” Patrice Moritz, a senior studying speech language and hearing sciences and Green Team member said. “So that more people will benefit from it too, not just like five dorms and the first 100 people in line.”
In order to fund this expansion, Rudnick hopes that the rummage sale will bring in $10,000 this year.
With nearly every item selling out in the first several hours, Rudnick may have neared her goal.
“We’re just super excited that students are benefitting from students, so it’s kind of like the stuff is coming full circle,” Rudnick said. “Donated by students, it’s going back to students. It’s going to feed them, it’s going to provide resources for them, so it just feels good.”
Students planning to return to campus next year should keep an eye out for UA’s second Wildcat Welcome Rummage Sale next May.
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