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How to Reduce Waste during Move-in Week

College students will soon be heading back to school and moving into new dorms, apartments and Greek housing. Moving can generate a lot of waste from packing supplies to buying or bringing things that aren’t needed. A little effort and pre-planning can have a great impact on reducing waste during move-in week.

The easiest thing students can do to minimize waste and save money is to talk to your roommate(s) before move-in day and coordinate who will be bringing what. There’s no need for two microwaves, two coffee pots or two dorm refrigerators. Speaking of appliances, microwaves and mini-fridges, they are two of the most abandoned items at the end of the year. Instead of buying new, see if your school partners with a company that rents them. After determining what items you are responsible for declutter before packing and plan to only pack things you know you will truly use.

When it’s time to start packing, look for ways to reduce packaging waste. Instead of buying new boxes, Check Craig’s List or Freecycle for people giving away boxes that can be reused.  Many moving companies now offer reusable storage crates.  Even better, save money and use suitcases or large bags you already own for transporting. In a recent New York Times article titled “A First Apartment, With (Almost) Zero Waste,” a young woman following a zero-waste lifestyle gave great advice on how she reduced packaging waste when she moved into her first apartment. One suggestion was using towels and blankets to wrap delicate items. If you must use boxes, make sure they are reused or recycled when they are unpacked. College sustainability groups frequently are present at on-campus housing during move-in week to help with recycling initiatives.

Apartment Therapy says Ikea’s Frakta bags are must-haves for moving and they are a staple on college campuses during move-in weeks. The famous blue bags are inexpensive, big, leak-proof, reusable and can hold up to 55 lbs. The bags are flexible and can hold oddly shaped items. After move-in day, bags can be used for shopping trips or doing laundry. Need other reasons to love Ikea? The sustainability-minded company will stop selling sing-use plastic products in its stores and will stop offering disposables in its restaurants by 2020. Additionally, Ikea is also testing a buy back program to keep customers’ furniture out of landfills.

Before starting the trip to campus, fill a reusable water bottle. The temperatures can be really high for move-in days in August and September. Stay hydrated while you work by refilling your reusable water bottle at water refill stations which are common place on college campuses. If you forgot your water bottle at home, it’s likely you will find a group or university office selling or giving away branded reusable bottles.

After everything is unpacked, get creative for stocking your residence with things that are still needed. Many universities have recycling and surplus locations where one can find previously owned items for low or no cost. Thrift stores are great for dishes, coffee mugs, silverware and more. Look on Facebook for local online garage sale or free groups.

Move-in week is also a great time for new students, interested in sustainability, to learn about various environmental groups on campus. These groups will be front and center helping to reduce waste on campus and will gladly welcome new members looking to help with campus sustainability events throughout the year.