A Green Good-Bye

The university’s fourth annual Green Move Out benefited local charities.

May 09, 2010

By Menachem Wecker

The George Washington University is well worth its weight in conservation. In Green Move Out 2010, the most successful one to date, GW collected 79,994 pounds of donations, 3,478 bags of donated clothing and items, 4,778 pounds of food, hundreds of bottles of used cleaning products and thousands of books. 

Last year’s initiative won a Washington Business Journal Green Business Award for Innovation in Sustainability. This year’s Green Move Out -- which collected a wide variety of items from students as they moved off campus -- promised to be even better with the involvement of a new residence (South Hall), a new charity partner (Miriam’s Kitchen) and four new items for donation: laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, caps and gowns, and Metro and SmarTrip cards.

“Every item donated stays out of a landfill and gets repurposed for those in need,” says Matt Trainum, director of employment at GW Housing Programs and co-chair of Green Move Out. “Students get the satisfaction of doing good, and GW avoids having to handle the volume of trash that it would otherwise have.”

Though there is a tendency to “get stuck on totals and hope to have a bar graph that ekes out a little higher total for this year’s report,” Green Move Out is supposed to be about students donating to needy D.C. families, says Mr. Trainum.

According to Mr. Trainum, organizers placed a variety of different size boxes throughout campus to solicit donations – from books and clothes to food and television sets. “If they leave it, we’ll take it,” he says. GW volunteers were also on hand in residence halls during business hours to collect items.

Rose Dunnegan, business integration manager for operations and Green Move Out co-chair, said 357 bags were collected in the first week compared with 241 last year. But Ms. Dunnegan stressed that in 2009, a rainy day prevented some of the scheduled pickups, which were rescheduled for week two.

“I think it is also important to note that Green Move Out provides the charity partners with an abundance of donations that typically they would not see at this time of year,” she says. “Many of them are deluged with donations of food and clothing during the fall, winter and holiday periods but such donations tend to decrease in the spring and summer.”

The collections at GW restock food pantries and provide an assortment of clothing and other household goods. “Much of what we collect goes right back to our local community, whether providing families with groceries or helping people move out of shelters into their first apartment furnished with the help of kitchen appliances and gadgets collected from Green Move Out,” says Ms. Dunnegan.

A team of 200 volunteers worked on Green Move Out 2010, which lasted from May 1 to May 20. The donations go to several charities, including The National Children’s Center, Bread for the City, So Others Might Eat, the Capital Area Food Bank and local animal shelters.

Jon Fenech, one of the student coordinators, says he appreciates the opportunity to “be a force in making our campus more sustainable” and to serve as a role model to his peers through Green Move Out.

“Once multiple students are helping around campus, the entire campus helps,” says Mr. Fenech, a freshman who is majoring in business with a focus on event planning. “It’s a domino effect.”

Tylar Greene, a junior majoring in geography and journalism, got involved in Green Move Out as a student coordinator for a different reason: the question of what would happen to all of the donations if they weren’t collected.

“All of this would be thrown away if not for Green Move Out,” she says. “Even through the stress of finals, whenever I have a GMO shift it feels awesome to see a full truckload of goods that would have been unnecessary waste head to those in need.”

Ms. Greene says most of her friends did not know about Green Move Out until they saw her getting involved, and then they wanted to participate. “Sometimes all it takes is one person to take the initiative, and everyone will follow,” she says.

Njeri Kimani, a sophomore and a Green Move Out student coordinator, cites a quote from the 17th-century historian and preacher Thomas Fuller to explain her involvement: “We never know the worth of water until the well is dry.”

“I don’t want that to be the legacy that we leave behind for future generations,” says Ms. Kimani, who is from Kenya. “I have never met a student that doesn’t care for our planet. They just don’t know how to be ‘green.’”

Bins for donations are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the residence halls, Marvin Center and the Ivory Tower food court.  According to Mr. Trainum, “We accept virtually anything, as long as it is in usable condition.”

Green Move Out is sponsored by GW’s Residential Life Services Cluster, Green Living Committee, Residence Hall Association, Office of Community Service, and by Revolution Green LLC, Campaign GW, Green GW, Aramark Facility Services, Caldwell & Gregory, Moving Masters and Pitney Bowes Management Services.


Student Life