Reduce, Reuse, Smith Cycle
Each year when Smith students move out, many struggle to fit all their things into storage bins, suitcases and car trunks. Some also have dorm supplies, winter jackets and other items they don’t need for their next move, but getting these items to a donation center off campus is difficult. Clothing is collected and organized for donation through the Trash for Treats program during finals, but there is no structure in place to collect other items.
As students leave, items pile up in living rooms, sidewalks and dumpsters. Facilities staff preparing for Commencement and Reunion have a difficult time organizing abandoned items. Some things are retrieved and donated, but most end up mixed in with trash.
After seeing this waste firsthand as a Reunion student worker, Emmy Longnecker ’20J, a chemistry major and environmental science and policy minor, was determined to solve it. Longnecker worked with staff and faculty in CEEDS to create a two-semester special studies to understand the problem and develop a solution. Longnecker spent the first semester understanding waste on campus—how it is collected, who transports it and where it ends up. She met with building services staff in Facilities Management to hear about their work and the challenges and limitations they see. She also talked with students about their move-out needs. Next, Longnecker worked to figure out how collecting and sorting items could fit into the busy spring schedule, and she then looked for groups of people on campus already available to help.
In the second semester, Longnecker focused on making connections. She found homes for reuse for a wide range of items. She also connected with Student Affairs and the Office of Alumnae Relations and Development. And voilà, Smith Cycle was born. It is Smith’s first student-designed, comprehensive move-out waste reduction program.
Through Smith Cycle student can donate clothing, shoes, bedding, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, electronics, lamps, storage bins, luggage, school supplies and more by placing their items in large marked bins in houses around campus. Bins will be available from May 1–20 and will be located in Comstock, Emerson, Wilson, Scales, Cutter, Chase and Lawrence houses, as well as the Freidman Apartments. Reunion student workers will periodically empty the bins and sort the items into categories for donation. Donated items will be picked up by several local partners, including the Salvation Army, Northampton Survival Center and Northampton ReCenter. Some items will be stored on campus over the summer and made accessible to students arriving on campus early in the fall.
When Trash for Treats started several years ago, staff were able to estimate the weight of the clothing donated and found that between eight and twelve tons of clothing is collected each year. Conservatively, this totals 16,000 pounds. It will be more difficult to estimate the weight of the varied items saved from the landfill by Smith Cycle, but through this program students have the potential to drastically reduce end-of-year waste.
For her work on this issue, Longnecker was awarded the Student Leadership Award in Environmental Sustainability in April 2019. After graduation in January 2020, Longnecker plans to apply to doctoral programs in atmospheric chemistry. The Smith Cycle program will come under the purview of staff when Longnecker graduates and is intended to continue at Smith each year.