Putting an end to campus waste

Every May, thousands of Penn students go home for the summer, leaving behind furniture, appliances and other items they are unable to transport across the state, country or world.

Glenn Stieffenhofer, associate director of housing operations, says “tons and tons of food, furnishings, lots of books, and lots of clothing” are thrown away.

“They’re not just being wasteful,” says Barbara Lea-Kruger, director of communications and project management for the Business Services Division (BSD). “It’s just not practical for them to bring everything that they get on campus back home.”

As a result, most of the discarded items end up in a landfill. But now, PennMOVES, a new project led by the BSD, is gathering these items and putting them to much better, more Earth-friendly use. As students move out, any unwanted usable items can be donated to PennMOVES for distribution to a host of nonprofit organizations throughout the city. Items can be placed in bins located in the lobbies of the various College Houses.

Lea-Kruger says anything useful can be dropped off, including refrigerators, electronics, computers, furniture, unopened toiletries and cleaning supplies, books, fans, microwaves, glassware and dishes, clothing and nonperishable foods.

Broken, dirty or perishable items, egg crates, or open or used toiletries and cleaning supplies are not accepted.

The Philip Rosenau Company and Sinclair Moving are helping transfer the items from the drop-off locations to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they will be stored and sorted. PhillyCarShare is donating driving miles.

Stieffenhofer, who is chairing the project, says PennMOVES is also making efforts to involve off-campus living and Greek housing students. Off-campus students can place their unwanted items in area dumpsters and Uhuru Furniture & Collectibles will pick up the furniture and transport it to the Ice Rink. Off-campus students can also bring items to campus to specified drop-off locations.

The good deeds started by the BSD have spread to other Penn departments. Facilities and Real Estate Services, College Houses and Academic Services, the Penn Environmental Group and the Residential Advisory Board are all committed to the program. Lea-Kruger says many departments have contacted PennMOVES offering to donate items. The Penn Children’s Center, for example, recently expanded and remodeled some of its rooms and is donating children’s furniture.

The collection will run throughout the month of May, with sorting to take place in June. Students who are staying on campus over the summer have volunteered to assist.

Items collected will be donated to more than a dozen local organizations, such as AchieveAbility, a nonprofit organization working to permanently break the cycle of poverty for single-parent, low-income, formerly homeless families; the Penn Volunteers In Public Service (VIPS) Scholarship Program, which awards annual scholarships to University City and West Philadelphia high school students; Philabundance, which acquires food and distributes it through organizations to people in need; and Uhuru. Any leftover items will be donated to the Salvation Army.

Lea-Kruger says PennMOVES dovetails with a number of Penn initiatives.
“It supports the climate initiative of the President. It supports the Penn Compact by engaging locally,” she says. “It’s a service across the University.”

For more information on PennMOVES, visit www.upenn.edu/housing/pennmoves or email pennmoves@pobox.upenn.edu.

Originally published May 8, 2008.

Originally published on May 8, 2008