Office of Sustainability to Operate First-Ever Reuse Market

A temporary free store will provide residence hall essentials sourced from spring donations to students at no charge.

August 15, 2023

A white woman helps a Black man move a plastic shelf from the bed of a truck to a storage closet.

Items such as organization bins, bookshelves, kitchen supplies and hangers sourced from last spring semester's Green Move-Out will be available to students free of charge from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22 in University Yard. (William Atkins/GW Today)

Forget a caddy for the shower? Packed bowls but not spoons?  

Fear not. The George Washington University Office of Sustainability has you covered.

From 4 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 22, the office is hosting its first-ever Reuse Market, enabling students to save a Target run and go through second-hand items collected during move out at the end of spring semester.

University Yard will transform into a temporary free store with roughly 6,000 pounds worth of residence hall essentials ranging from kitchen supplies, décor and storage to organization bins, bathroom supplies, bookshelves and hangers.  

Thanks to a $5,000 grant the Office of Sustainability received from the Chesapeake Bay Trust and D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, students can enter the Reuse Market and shop free of charge. They will just need to show their GWorld card for entry.

“The primary purpose of the Reuse Market is to introduce students to the concept of circularity,” said Office of Sustainability Associate Colin O’Brien, B.A. ’20. “We are working to shift the campus culture away from a model of consumption and waste, towards one where materials are continually reused or repurposed.” 

O’Brien said the items will be divided into different material categories so students can easily navigate the temporary market to find specifically what they are seeking. He anticipates roughly 15 students being able to use the space at a time. Also, in order to make the market as equitable as possible, the Office of Sustainability is working with campus partners, including the Office of Student Success,The Store and First Gen United, to ensure priority access to students for whom the cost of basic room supplies represents a financial burden.

“The Reuse Market would not be possible without support from our other partners on campus including the Student Center Events and New Student Orientation teams, who have helped greatly with planning and promotion,” O’Brien added.

Volunteers will staff the Reuse Market, and students interested in participating can register for a shift with Sustainable GW. 

In the past 10 years, Green Move-Out has diverted more than 400,000 pounds of clothing, bedding, shoes, household items and nonperishables from landfills. Students donate during the spring semester move out, and volunteers then bag those items and deliver them to several local charity partners such as Bread for the City and A Wider Circle.

O’Brien estimates that more than 50,000 pounds worth of items were donated at the end of last academic year, so much of them will still go to the local charities in addition to the Reuse Market.

“If we didn’t have the Green Move Out  program, there would be a lot of useful materials going to the landfill,” O’Brien said. “Many plastics are going to break down into microplastics that stay in the environment for a long time. The clothing, bedding and other organic materials are going to produce greenhouse gases as they break down in the landfill. “Giving these discarded items another life has a lasting and serious impact."

“Now with our Reuse Market, we are able to prevent waste before it even occurs, by encouraging students to rethink their consumption habits and opt for second-hand products over new ones.

“We are building a small-scale circular economy right here on campus.”