Discarded clothes focus of green project

Countless piles of clothing, electronics, and other discarded items tend to end up in the hallways and common rooms of residence halls near the end of May move-out.

Eric Van Vlandren, the campus sustainability coordinator, said with the help of the Office of Housing and Residence Life and Earth Emerson, he has created a plan to donate all clothing left in the residence halls to Community Recycling, a company that collects used clothes and sells them back for a low price to Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and thrift shops.

Last semester, Earth Emerson, a student-run sustainability advocacy organization, proposed a solution to the “extra trash” problem at the college. Kaela Holmes, the former president of Earth Emerson, told the Beacon in an email that she and Van Vlandren talked to Post-Landfill Action Network, a company that partners with colleges to have students donate used furniture, but ultimately realized it wasn’t an appropriate fit. 

“Students on campus do not have furniture to sell, and the students off campus are spread out all through Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, etc.,” she wrote. “It wasn’t plausible for students to get their furniture and even smaller items all into one place.”

Without any knowledge of the student initiative, Jacqueline Arch, co-founder of Philadelphia-based Community Recycling, or CR, said she contacted Van Vlandren to see if her company would fit the college’s needs for the excessive amounts of clothing students leave behind. 

“Emerson has many challenges that most of my other campuses do not face,” she said, citing the other 11 universities CR works with.   

Some of these obstacles include being an urban, vertical campus, Van Vlandren said, and having no place to safely and conveniently place clothing donation bins, which he said is a common practice among other colleges.

“We knew we wanted to do something to address the unsustainability of move-out,” he said.

Arch, whose son is currently a junior at Emerson, said after many emails, visits, and phone calls, her company and Emerson were able to create a fitting campaign for the campus. 

At the end of the semester, every student on campus will receive a blue recycled-plastic bag to donate worn but usable clothing, shoes, belts, and bags. Students will be able to fill up the bag and leave it in their dorm rooms at the end of move-out. 

Shannon Dwyer, a junior journalism major, said she thinks students leave behind goods because of a lack of carts and the hectic scheduling of move-out. 

“There are kids here who have a lot of possessions that they don’t want anymore because they are taking a plane home,” Dwyer said.

Van Vlandren said CR is giving Emerson the blue plastic bags for free, and will pay Emerson a certain number of pennies per pound. He said he doesn’t know the exact amount yet.

While he doesn’t expect to raise much, Van Vlandren said the school decided that all of the money will go to St. Francis House, a homeless day shelter for men and women located down the block at 39 Boylston St. 

“Through CR, I found a staggering statistic that 70 percent of the world’s population wears only used clothing,” Van Vlandren said. 

CR resells the clothing that it collects internationally, said Van Vlandren, including to single mothers in Sierra Leone, for whom an easy and common job is to sell clothes in marketplaces.

Nicholas Reynolds, a resident assistant in the Little Building, said he hadn’t heard of the clothing donation program.

“There’s a whole lot of trash left over,” said Reynolds, a visual and media arts major. “As far as I know, facilities takes care of it.”

Van Vlandren said there will be detailed instructions posted on the doors of each residence room before move-out takes place. 


Assistant news editor Christina Bartson contributed to this report.