Campus Currents

Giving Old Couches a
Second Life

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Trash 2 Treasure video

Every month, UNH students throw away 25 tons of trash. In May, that number increases to 105. What's ending up in the university dumpsters? While driving around campus during move-out week last year, Alex Freid '13 and Lauren Banker '13, both members of the Student Environmental Action Coalition, were shocked by the answer. "Things that were in perfectly usable condition," says Freid—everything from shower caddies to old couches.

Appalled but motivated, the students founded Trash 2 Treasure, an organization that will help give used dorm furnishings a new life. Made possible by a $4,000 grant from the UNH Parents Association and donations from 50 local businesses, the program will provide eight locations around campus where students can drop off furniture, electronics, academic supplies and other items. The "treasure" will be stored over the summer and then sold at a yard sale during move-in weekend in the fall. There are a few things that T2T can't collect: hazardous materials, computers and mattresses. But the list of what they can is longer: fans, lamps, desks, microwaves, TVs, small refrigerators, rugs, food, clothing, printers and cleaning supplies.

Photographer: Lis Nugent/UNH Photographic Services
WASTE NOT: T2T volunteers, from left, Lauren Banker '13, Erica Vazza '14, Emily Spognardi '14 and Alex Freid '13

"Our society is built around this idea of endless consumerism," says Freid. "Our trash doesn't go away: it sits in landfills forever, and it leaches a lot of harmful chemicals."

All that waste isn't just an environmental hazard: it's expensive, too. The total cost to the university for last year's move-out trash was more than $5,000. "So we're hopefully going to save UNH money," says Banker. She anticipates that T2T will encourage students to save as well. "With this program, they can reduce their waste and save money at the same time," she says.

Because T2T will be selling the items back to students, Freid and Banker hope that the program will discourage students from buying new stuff every year. In time, they envision using any extra funds from the yard sales to create a grant program for students seeking to start similar organizations at other universities. "It's a model that could be used anywhere," says Freid.

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