Full Circle: Barnard College Program Makes Sure Discarded Dorm Items Don’t Go to Waste

The college-sponsored Give & Go Green program collects unwanted dorm supplies and furniture and resells them at a low cost to incoming students the next school year. Students who devote time to the program get a stipend, free housing, and meals after the school year ends.
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Published on July 14, 2023
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  • Give & Go Green provides pay, housing, and meals to students running Give & Go Green.
  • The program started as a fully student-run effort before Leslie Raucher and Sandra Goldmark had the Office of Sustainability and Climate Action take over and run the event.
  • Barnard allows low-income, first generation, and international students to get first dibs on Green Sale items.
  • Faculty and staff can take perishable items during the Give & Go Green collection.

Students at Barnard College, a private women's college in New York, know to think twice before throwing away dorm furniture and supplies. They can either donate to the college's Give & Go Green program or help run it and get free housing, meals, and pay.

Then once the new school year starts, students can skip Bed, Bath, and Beyond and head to Barnard's Green Sale instead to fill their dorm space with the collected items.

What Is Give & Go Green?

Give & Go Green is a college-sponsored program where students can donate their items as they move out of dorms at the end of the school year instead of throwing them away or donating them off campus.

Amelia Lang, a junior pursuing a double major in theater and environment and sustainability, said students working with the Give & Go Green program go to Barnard's different satellite locations and collect items from dorms as everyone moves out.

Afterward, the students return to the central hub area to sort, pack, and decide which items to store, repair, send to a local organization, or donate.

I mean, it's a lot of fun. We listen to music and talk about the weird stuff we find, Lang told BestColleges. And then at the end, it's like we pack everything into trucks, and then this room that was just filled to the ceiling with stuff is suddenly empty.

Lang first heard about Give & Go Green from Sandra Goldmark, the director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action who also serves as her advisor. Lang mentioned that she needed to stay an extra week after the school year — and before summer housing was available — and did not want to pay the expensive extra in-between rent.

I was like, I don't know what I need to do. I have all this stuff, and I can't take it home 'cause I live far away, Lang said. And Sandra was like, Oh, you are interested in environmental science; you should do Give & Go Green. You can stay for an extra week and help your community.

Leslie Raucher, associate director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action, told BestColleges one thing that differentiates Barnard's Give & Go Green program from efforts at other schools is that Give & Go Green provides a stipend, free housing, and free meals to students who help run the program.

In addition to the Green Sale, Give & Go Green also has a smaller store section with available food items, clothes, and other perishables that are useful but can't be stored — for example, a laundry detergent tub with only three scoops used. She said faculty and staff can come in and take those things for free.

Yeah, it really isn't just for students, but that's not how we set out, said Raucher. We do find that a lot of the facilities, custodial, and food service staff, some of them get furloughed over the summer, and so being able to essentially have Costco brought to them is a really great way to help them out through the summer as well.

How the Program Began

Raucher said Give & Go Green has always existed in some form. When she arrived on campus 10 years ago, it was entirely student-run. However while the effort was great, it was organizationally and visually disorganized.

Raucher and Goldmark decided to have the college take over and turn it into a waste reduction opportunity and community event.

Students really have ingrained the idea that they are going to help provide items to future students because we don't collect the items and just stick 'em on trucks and send them to giant donation organizations such as Goodwill or Salvation Army, Raucher said.

What started as a linear economy from campus to outside communities is now a closed sustainable campus economy that Raucher calls a circular campus.

This is one example of where students are getting items that were from students. They're using them, and they're returning them to be put back into use the next year, Raucher said. Really exciting.

Skip the Store and Get Dorm Supplies at the Green Sale!

Give & Go Green is only half of the event. In late August and September, Barnard hosts the Green Sale.

All proceeds go to the students who helped organize the events — through stipends, food, and housing. Raucher said if the sale were to ever make any extra money, it would likely go to Barnard's Climate Action Grant for students. Still, Barnard isn't trying to make a profit, just break even.

Not only are they cleaning, sorting, making sure that things that we packed up in the summer still work, but they're building a store and a business and educating students about the value of used goods and the circular economy, said Raucher.

This year, students are modeling the sale to be like an IKEA store, where students can linearly go through the maze to shop for dorm supplies, furniture, textbooks, clothes, and the ever-elusive mini fridge.

Lang said she even got a stuffed snake for her friend's birthday party — his name's Tom.

It's a really good opportunity to get really high-quality things for super cheap, Lang said. And it's also staying within our circular campus.

Raucher said the Green Sale also partners with Access Barnard for a pre-sale — a one-stop shop for international, first-generation, and low-income Barnard students.

We've taken it from just a waste reduction to really trying to keep things on campus. But also making sure that the students can all have rooms that they're really proud of and enjoy living in, Raucher said.

A Community Effort

Raucher said a green-move-out program is already the standard in higher education sustainability, and she suggests other schools strive for their own Green Sale.

Lang emphasized that Give & Go Green and the Green Sale are a community effort.

On like so many levels of providing people access to items they need, said Lang. On top of that, the overwhelming environmental disaster that we're in. We're serving our community in that way of doing everything we can to reduce that.

Raucher said that putting on an event of this scale isn't a cakewalk. Everything from custodial to events management, to public safety and residential life has to give the stamp of approval and coordinate the two efforts.

For the students, they put in 2-3 hours during exams, and those hours jump to six once the exams finish. Then once it reaches the end, there are crunch days.

Not only does the amount of effort bring people closer together to actually understand what we're all trying to achieve, but understand that the time and effort and care that went into ensuring that you could have this mini fridge is a lot more than one would think.