Pack Rat Paradise

Pack Rat Paradise by Kelsey Schur ’12

June 12, 2008

A wall of printers and televisions that would rival the stockroom of Best Buy sits beside the door. Along the back wall are glass vases, wine glasses, and tea sets. Office supplies, at least three dozen Swiffer sweepers and brooms, several hundred plastic hangers, stacks of textbooks and paperbacks, and boxes upon boxes of Ethernet cords, cell phone chargers, and surge protectors crowd the center of the room. Is this an incredibly disorganized Target or Wal-Mart, or a K-mart post bankruptcy?

No, this is the Jumbo Drop warehouse on Boston Avenue, where students have been working to sort through everything left behind by their comrades. At least three times a day, someone makes a comment that sounds like, “Jeeeeesh, how can people leave their (insert expensive piece of technology) behind?” or “Won’t this person need this stuff next year?” Anyone can be snide and quip that Tufts students get way too much easy money from their parents, and that’s why they are able to abandon so many expensive or still-useful things every year, but most Tufts students would retort that the majority of their friends are looking at very sparse bank accounts most of the year. So what’s the real reason students leave so many valuable things behind? Many of my West Coast and Midwestern friends say that they simply can’t carry their things on the plane with them to take them home, and they either don’t want to do the work or pay the money to store their stuff. If one wanted to be positive about it, it could be claimed that Tufts students feel good about leaving their things behind because they know that they will be donated to a good cause. While I rather like that explanation, as a JumboDrop worker I find it hard to believe in all cases. At least half of what we collected this year did not come from the JumboDrop boxes, but from the dorms and apartments that we cleaned out. Most of these objects were not necessarily left with the intention of donation, and were fair game for the janitors to throw away if they cleaned the space before JumboDrop got there. This actually happened this year – JumboDrop was too late to go through one of the Sophia Gordon towers before it was cleaned. How much was wasted because of that?

It is impossible to narrow down the reason why Tufts students routinely leave behind elaborate printers, enormous televisions, and comfortable lounge chairs every year to a single explanation. Likely, it’s a combination of several of the factors mentioned above. However, we can find a way to reduce the amount left behind. Yes, JumboDrop is a great program and certainly helps reduce the waste of reusable things every year, but a lot of what we collect is damaged in the process and then becomes unusable, and there’s no reason that what happened to one of the Sophia Gordon towers this year won’t happen again. You can become an even more responsible recycler by finding other ways to reuse things before they go to the JumboDrop box. Think about what you’ll need next year. Are you sure that you can’t fit those binders into your suitcase? Total up how much you’d spend replacing all of your school supplies in the fall, then compare it with the cost to store them. You will certainly need those things next year. Yes, yes, it’s always thrilling to have new, crisp office supplies every school year (c’mon, we’re all academic nerds here…) but maybe it’s time to leave the exciting September trips to Wal-Mart to buy new folders covered with cute puppies and doe-eyed Barbies in elementary school. You’ll save money, and you’ll be really happy that you did when you’re dying for a pizza next weekend. What if you find out you can’t fit those last few things in your suitcase, and it’s too late to store something? Have an end-of-the-year swap meet with your friends to trade and give away the clothing and other things that you won’t keep. I know many of you would like any excuse to party, and there’s a great one right there. (When TUPD shows up to quiet you down, you can say that you’re saving the environment!)

Ultimately, the goal is to buy fewer new things by reusing what you have and what you can get from your friends. This summer, everyone is lamenting the state of the economy, so what better time to become more conscious of what you don’t need to buy? Before you go out to buy something, think hard about what you already have. Could you put something to a new and creative use? Not only will you save money, but you will help the environment. The majority of waste comes from the creation of an object, so if you don’t buy something new, you reduce that production waste. This is another reason why JumboDrop is a great source if you do need to buy something at the beginning of next year. So please, before you hit the campus bookstore, visit JumboDrop, and if you see a freshman about to get on that bus to Target during orientation, tell them that they can save a lot of money by investigating JumboDrop instead. Next year, think a bit harder about the options for the things you would otherwise donate or heaven forbid, throw away (?!), even and especially when it’s not JumboDrop season. You’ll be saving money and helping the environment at the same time. Sweet deal!

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