Ditch the Dumpster usefully, ethically diverts tons of waste to help environment
Volunteers still needed for Sunday senior move-out day, Center Director Kristyn Achilich '05 says
Staff, faculty and student volunteers were out in force all this past week for the “Ditch the Dumpster” initiative.
Ditch the Dumpster (DTD) is an annual landfill diversion initiative and a student and employee volunteer opportunity that reflects Saint Michael’s College’s commitment to a sustainable living and learning. The program allows Saint Michael’s students to donate unwanted items that may otherwise end up in a landfill.
Kristyn Achilich, director of the College’s Center for the Environment, coordinates and oversees this ambitious effort with the help of the initiative’s steering committee – Jennie Clark (Institutional Advancement), Lara Scott, MOVE (volunteer service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry), Jeff Vincent (Residential Life), Sarah Klionsky (Bergeron Wellness), Janel Roberge (Academic Affairs), Joel Ribout and Ben Duffy (Facilities), and students, Anna McNulty, Anna Beach, Abigail Beach, Eliza Bryne, Chris Karadenes, and Tallis Diehn. This year, Ditch the Dumpster began on Monday, May 9 and ran through Wednesday, May 11 for undergraduates, and will be held again for seniors in the afternoon of commencement day, Sunday May 15. More volunteers are needed on senior move out day, Sunday, May 15. To sign up to help, click here.
Each year, an average of 38.5 tons of items are thrown in the garbage during the end of the semester move-out. This roughly 38.5 tons of landfilling material is created by Saint Michael’s students/community members during the weeklong move-out process each spring, said Achilich.
“This stuff, brought in from all of our home states, stays in Vermont in a huge landfill in Coventry, Vermont. The Barton River flows through Coventry and then flows into Lake Memphremagog. For Phish fans, Coventry is also known for the final Phish concert in August 2004 where fans ‘faced a sea of mud.’ If Coventry seems far away, PFAS garbage juice from waste ends up very close to us in the Winooski River, which runs along Route 15, the College farm, and our campus and eventually into the lake we love. Recent legislation in the state attempts to correct the massive environmental issue, and our Ditch the Dumpster initiative is our attempt to do our small part,” she said.
During the 2021 event, Ditch the Dumpster diverted approximately 15.5 tons of unwanted furniture, clothing and other items, which was then distributed to local and regional non-profit organizations. This was about 40 percent of the waste collected last year. The team has set their sights on even more this year.
In addition to the materials from students’ residential lives here on campus, Ditch the Dumpster leaders focused on food rescue in 2022. “We’ve always accepted food”, says MOVE’s director, Lara Scott, “but it has been limited to items wanted by our community partners. Many of us saw an opportunity to expand food recovery.” This year, non-expired non-perishable foods donated will become the foundation for a future on-campus food pantry. Open, expired and perishable foods will go to Food Not Bombs – a mutual aid organization that cooks daily meals for folks downtown and has a 24/7 fridge and panty on a greenway off of Pearl Street on Hungerford Terrace. “Students brought open flour, sugar, spices, peanut butter, granola bars, the non-boxed instant oatmeal packs, etc. that in the past we had to compost,” Scott said. ” Our campus partners – The Green Pantry in Winooski, Aunt Dot’s Place in Essex, the Williston Food Shelf, the Milton Food Shelf and the Colchester Food Shelf – will continue to benefit as in years past.”
The waste diversion is a clear example of the Saint Michael’s community “Doing well, doing good,” Achilich said, but, student participation in the event planning, coordination, and management is one example of purposeful learning created by the Center for the Environment. Achilich, the Center’s director says, “This program allows students to serve the community while giving them tools for tackling real-world challenges. Students participate in co-coordination with a large group of people. It is experience with a skill set in project management, communication, and collaboration. Students are exposed to the impact of an institutional scale and systems thinking as well as the importance of clear communication with community partners. We recover everything from plastic storage containers to shoes to couches and food. The needs and coordination are complex and dynamic. Sustainability and food systems are increasingly important issues the leaders of tomorrow will face and Ditch the Dumpster speaks to both those concerns. For students to demonstrate that they participated in an approximately 40 ton waste planning project at their college, that’s an accomplishment.”
“While the senior event has yet to happen, during which we recover the bulk of our tonnage, 267 pounds of academic books will be returned, 228 pounds of food will stay here on campus to stock a food pantry, 75 pounds has already moved to our community food partners through MOVE’s efforts, 210 pounds to Food not Bombs, and 36 pounds will feed students in the Writing Center,”Achilich said. ” Nine refrigerators and seven microwaves have been recovered to be reused for students next year through our partnership with the Campus Store.
So, where does the bulk of recovered items go? Most go to the College’s main partner, ReSOURCE Vermont, which provides trucks for daily pick-ups for the duration of the program. Donations to ReSOURCE Vermont directly impact the Vermont community by providing workforce development, environmental stewardship and poverty relief. “It was a pleasure to work with ReSOURCE last year. We are delighted to have them back a partner”, said Sarah Klionsky, a member of the DTD committee.
“This is a great program that provides an avenue for our students, staff and faculty to give back to the community and contribute to our sustainability initiatives,” Sarah continues. “It relates directly to core values of Saint Michael’s College to help with living green and lending a hand.” In thanking the College’s Athletic Director Chris Kenny ’86 for volunteering, he replied ‘It’s the Saint Mike’s way.’”