Moving out? NIU joins Keep America Beautiful, Goodwill to collect students’ recyclables in May

Keep America Beautiful logoNorthern Illinois University students are accustomed to the annual Move-in Day, kicking off the start of the fall semester.

Now there’s a new end-of-the-school-year wrinkle: Move-out Week.

NIU has been selected as one of five colleges and universities nationwide to partner up with Goodwill Industries and Keep America Beautiful on a pilot “move-out week” program.

Each spring, when college students depart from residence halls on campuses nationwide, they leave behind millions of pounds of clothing and recyclable household items that are typically stuffed in tractor-trailer-sized trash bins and hauled to landfills.

The aim of NIU’s “Give and Go! Move Out 2013” pilot campaign is to provide students with an easy way to be environmental stewards, while at the same time aiding the non-profit Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois, based in Rockford.

“It will be a cool program,” says co-organizer Melissa Burlingame, program coordinator for the NIU Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability and Energy (ESE).

“Sustainability is an important issue to many college students, so we’re excited to offer NIU students with this option to keep items out of the landfill,” she says. “We believe our students and student groups will be eager to participate.”

Other institutions selected for the pilot program are the University of Toledo, Creighton University in Nebraska, Trinity University in Texas and Franklin College in Indiana.

Burlingame says NIU is ahead of the game. The university conducted its own mini-pilot program at Stevenson North and Stevenson South towers in December and collected 400 pounds of clothing that went to Goodwill.

“We were one of 70 institutions that applied for the national pilot program, and I think we were selected because we already had a track record,” Burlingame says. “We had demonstrated that it could be a success and had established a relationship with Goodwill of Northern Illinois. Now we’re hoping to build on that success.”

Here’s how Give and Go! Move Out 2013 will work this spring:

Goodwill logoOn Tuesday, April 30, Goodwill of Northern Illinois will drop off large blue containers to be placed in the lobby of each residence hall, and students will be encouraged to donate items that they’re not taking home. When full, containers will be emptied and replaced. This will last through the semester’s end.

Students are being encouraged to donate gently-used clothing, lamps, working condition electronics (but no televisions), kitchen items, sporting goods and non-perishable foods, which will be provided to a local food pantry.

“This is a wonderful way for students to reduce their carbon footprints and contribute to a great organization that helps those in need,” says geology professor Melissa Lenczewski, director of NIU’s ESE Institute. Lenczewski initiated discussions with Goodwill to partner on collection efforts.

Sam Schmitz, president of Goodwill Industries of Northern Illinois, said donated items will be resold at the Goodwill store in DeKalb and also transported to the organization’s warehouse for shipping to other stores throughout the organization’s 18-county territory.

“We’ve learned from other Goodwills across the country that universities are great partners,” Schmitz says. ”For us, this project represents a new donation stream, and we survive on donations.”

Profits from sales of donated items help provide job training to individuals facing barriers to employment.

“We have a number of job-training programs to help people develop such skills as interviewing, resume writing and work-place etiquette. We also provide case management for people with life issues,” Schmitz says. “So the Move Out 2013 program will help the university in its efforts to be environmentally sustainable and will allow us to change people’s lives for the better.”

For more information, contact NIU graduate assistant Katie Quesnell, who is coordinating the project, at kquesnell@gmail.com.

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