An Idea for Reducing Unnecessary Trash in College Communities...
After reading this article by David at The Good Human this morning I thought of the monster trash pile that I saw yesterday down the street from my house. I went back down this morning to see that they had already hauled about half of the stuff away, but there still remained an impressive pile of landfill bound junk. As big as this pile is, it is just the tip of the iceberg in my town.
I live in Durham, NH, a college town for the University of New Hampshire. Living in a college town you can't escape the rhythm of the academic year even when you are not a student. I always know when summer is here because the local coffee shop closes at an obscenely early hour and the day after all the students move out the curbs are littlered with futons and mattresses.
The furniture pile pictured above is actually the tail end of the trash flow as the town has already picked up most of discarded junk. With roughly 40 off campus apartment building within the compact area of the town, this is just a tiny portion of the furniture that is discarded every year. I cringe to think about how much has been thown away over the years.
David's article brings up some great points about how we consume and dispose of our stuff as a culture which I'd like to explore in more detail at another time. In this case I'd like to focus on the unique experience of the college student who moves every few months for 4 to 6 years. It's important to note that being a college student isn't a license to carelessly ravage through raw materials, but we also can't expect a 19 year old to buy an heirloom set of furniture that they intend to keep for the rest of their days on earth. There has to be a better way to accommodate the transient lifestyle of a student while reducing the volume of furniture that they consume.
After thinking about this for a short time this morning I came up with a potential solution... a giant swap shop. The Town of Durhm has a "Swap shop" at the town dump. It's a place to deposit the things that you don't want anymore (but aren't trash) for other people to take and put to use. It is a small two bay garage so the amount of furniture they house is limited. The university could run a much larger scale swap shop. Basically, they would drive around at the end of the year and pick up all the old furniture that is still usable and bring it down to a large warehouse to store for the summer months. At the beginning of the new school year they open the doors and have a big yard sale where they charge a nominal amount for each piece to cover the cost of operations. Most college kids use used furniture anyway, and having a university sponsored furniture depostiory would allow for this furniture to be used over and over rather than retired early to the landfill.
This is a rough idea and there's a lot more that would need to be figured out before a program like this could be implemented, but given the impact their student population has on the environment and the Universities long time commitment to sustainability I think it's an idea worth exploring. If anyone's aware of any large scale implementations of this please let me know.