A rainy day at the Lower Campus Move Out Station at Haskell Hall by Latin Way.

A Sudden Twist: Gearing up for a March Move Out

Each year, the Office of Sustainability (OOS) runs a robust donation collection program throughout the month of May, when students are moving out, finals are done, the air is warm, and folks are gearing up for their summer internships.

Student Move Out this year was anything but normal amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It came as a surprise to everyone when the University announced on the evening of March 10th that all students would have to move entirely out of their on-campus residence halls by 3:00 pm on March 16th.

The OOS’s annual donation program serves to divert good items from the landfill and to instead provide them to students and community members who will use them. Even in light of early Move-Out, we still wanted to maintain our sustainability values and help the Tufts community and its neighbors.

Due to the pandemic, the first step was to consult with a health expert at Tufts about whether it would be safe to collect donations at all and if so, what. There were select items that we could not collect this year because we could not sanitize them or because they are not high demand and there was limited time/capacity.  

Still, our entire office—from staff to recycling interns to communications interns—rallied together and made some magic happen. In the first day after the Move-Out announcement was made, we quickly created a donation station schedule, recruited and hired workers to help, rented vehicles, planned donation rules and two donation collection stations, ordered supplies, and secured a space for donation storage. Facilities quickly requested open top dumpsters to be placed around campus to accommodate the increased trash flow.

Early Move Out In-Action: New and Improved Collaborations

We even tried something new: due to the short notice, we were not able to get the trailers that we normally use to collect textiles. Instead, we collaborated with the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) to provide blue bags to students in residence hall lobbies, which they could use to store their clothing donations and leave them in their rooms, along with mini fridges labeled as donations. We also provided clear and black liners that students could use to take their recycling and trash out to the dumpsters and leave the space clean for the custodians.

Another pleasant surprise was a new collaboration with the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative (TFRC). The TFRC was working with multicultural offices and Tufts Mutual Aid to create a food pantry available to the Tufts community during this difficult time (and when many store shelves were empty!). We collected almost 1,000 lbs of non-perishable food donations for the pantry.

Over the course of the week, we hired 30 student workers to help during the day and evening. Most were students who lived off-campus, had some free time due to extended spring break, and had discontinued jobs or internships. The donations program would not have been possible without the workers: they were patient, independent, and good-spirited (even in the cold!).

With their help, we were able to not only run the stations for long hours, but also to transport all donations to our storage space and sort them into categories there. Some of them even came with us to retrieve donations from the residence halls on the Health Sciences and SMFA campuses in Boston. We were lucky that we already had enough gloves and other PPE in storage before COVID-19, and that our workers were both social distancing warriors and heavy-lifting champions.

A Job Well Done (and a nap for all!)

A truck on a city street

Description automatically generated
Morning time at the Upper Campus Donation Station in the Carmichael Parking Lot.

In the end, we diverted 6.42 tons (12,833 lbs) of donations from the landfills during Early Move Out. These donations will be provided to FIRST Resource Center students, the general Tufts student body, and/or to local non-profits/charities.

The quick planning it took to make this happen was not possible without collaboration from our office’s staff and interns, Facilities, TUPD, Auxillary Services, The Office of Residential Life and Learning, the FIRST Resource Center, the Tufts Food Rescue Collaborative, and campus’s hardworking custodial staff.

Early Move Out by the Numbers

We collected 6.42 tons (12,833 lbs) during March, including:

  • 303 lbs of sanitation/health items
  • 3,291 lbs of food and kitchen items/appliances
  • 1,786 lbs of home supplies such as vacuums, mirrors, lamps, and storage bins
  • 5,683 lbs of clothes
  • 881 lbs of furniture
  • 50 lbs of miscellaneous items

Student workers hired: 30

Total student hours worked: 267.5

Total last-minute rentals: 1 U-Haul box-truck, 1 U-Haul van, 2 U-pods

Total last-minute purchases: 1 Facebook ad, 6 rolls of packing tape, and granola bars!

Total acquisitions: We attained 6 sandbags—very handy to put in the donation collection bins on windy/rainy days. (Thanks Facilities!)

Total handy reuse strategies: We can’t forget about the 2 gaylords we had in storage from last year, or the 10 slim jims that we used as donation collection bins at the donation stations (we had attempted to order cardboard boxes for 1-day delivery, but they never arrived). We were also able to reuse donation items to organize our supplies and donations.

Total signs: We used or created 15 types of signs: 9 different signs for each of the donation collection streams, 1 for U-Pods (students could leave donations in there overnight), 1 yard sign for the upper campus donation station, 1 for the lower, 1 yard sign directing folks to dumpsters, 1 banner for recycling dumpsters, and 1 banner for trash dumpsters.

Total social media posts: 1 blog post, 2 Instagram/Twitter/FB posts, an Instagram story takeover, and a Move Out email to students from ORLL.

And finally: 1 wild 70-hour work week from our Recycling Fellow!

A group of people standing in a room

Description automatically generated
Specialty Recycling Intern turned Move Out worker collects donations from a student.

Update: May Move Out Day!

Despite Early Move-Out, some juniors and seniors stayed in their off campus apartments to finish off the academic year. As the end of May–and a lease-period–drew near, two of our interns, Serena and Elyssa, became aware of how many items they would have to put into trash dumpsters as they and their housemates moved out, especially with public donation venues closed due to the COVID-19.

At their initiative, we were able to organize a one-time May donation collection station for remaining students. The event was organized in just a day and announced online. A few dozen students came, masks and all, to donate their textbooks, fans, toaster ovens, excess cleaning supplies, entire dish-ware sets, storage units, and mini-fridges!

In just a 4-hour window, we collected an additional 894 lbs. We also collected 6,845 additional pounds of Move Out textile donations during May, bringing our 2020 Move Out total to 20,572.25 lbs and 10.29 tons!