20 Tons Diverted from Landfill During Greening Move-Out

Written by
Frances Hannan, Facilities
June 29, 2023

Two stories of a warehouse are now packed with couches, refrigerators, lamps and other household items. These items represent 20 tons of items diverted from the landfill during this year’s Greening Move-Out program. 

An effort spearheaded by the Office of Sustainability, Greening Move-Out aims to collect donations from undergraduates leaving the dorms for the summer or after graduation for reuse or donation. Furniture and household items are stored and resold in the fall at a deep discount to incoming students in need.  

“Sustainability is one of Facilities’ core principles, and this program touches on so many of our values,” says Shana Webber, Director of the Office of Sustainability. “It diverts perfectly useful items from the landfill, which helps the campus make progress towards its waste-reduction goals; and most importantly, the items are made available to returning and first-year students at extremely low prices so that everyone can afford them.” 

The Greening Move-Out program is led by Matt Brinn, Communications and Engagement Manager in the Office of Sustainability. Data from the Building Services Sanitation team showed that each May there is a spike in landfill waste collected.  

"The end of the spring semester is jam-packed full of activities and competing priorities for students,” notes Brinn. “They are balancing end-of-semester assignments, final exams, travel arrangements, securing summer internships, extracurriculars, and more. Given the tight schedule, with many students having less than 24 hours to pack their dorm and move out, it’s no wonder tons of landfill waste are generated during Princeton Move-Out every year.” 

Planning for this year began in October 2022. Donation sites were set around residential college locations using Reunion tent sites. Brinn worked with the Real Estate Office to secure warehouse storage space and began working on a communications campaign to recruit student workers and spread the news of the program. 

There were nine donation sites for undergraduate move-out and five sites for the 48-hour senior move out. In addition to the items collected at the tent sites, there were 14 clothing donation sites inside buildings coordinated by Helpsy and six Goodwill donation receptacles placed outside residential buildings. The program also partnered with non-profits Greendrop, Arm In Arm, Soles 4 Souls and Better Worlds Books to coordinate collection of items like shoes, books and bed linens.  

More than sixty students, faculty and staff volunteered to help, representing twenty-eight different departments. Moving trucks were on site daily to help move the items from the tent sites to the warehouse. The Office of Sustainability staff floated from site to site to problem solve and pick up items that did not make it to a tent site. 

Brinn had scheduled additional moving trucks to help collect and transport any remaining items left in the dorms following undergraduate move-out. However, after Building Services teams surveyed the rooms, the moving trucks were canceled; there was nothing to be collected this year. 

“While there was still a fair amount of trash and other items left behind in a lot of dorm rooms, the number of items needing to be removed seemed to be significantly less than in previous years,” says John Argento, Operations Manager for Building Services. “In my six years here now, this was the best condition that I've seen during a move out yet.” 

Greening Move-Out tapped partnerships across campus to reach as many students as possible. The communications plan used emails, listservs, flyers, and word of mouth. Information was shared with the Undergraduate Student Government, the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students, Housing and, for the first time, included an all-students message from KyuJung Whang, Vice President of Facilities, asking students to move out sustainably and with respect.  

“This year, the Sustainability team did an exceptional job by providing education and sending consistent emails to students during each phase of the move-out,” says Marc Navarro, Sanitation Supervisor. “They clearly explained where and when students could drop off their donations. In comparison to last year, this was an extraordinary achievement.” 

“The Princeton University community is eager to reduce their waste,” says Brinn. "They are ready and willing to participate and cooperate in any way they can to ensure the success of the program."