Written by Office of Sustainability Student Associate, Anna Haudrich, Class of 2023.
This past month, hordes of WashU students excitedly gathered in the Share Our Stuff (SOS) warehouse for a sustainable shopping spree. While the temperatures were high, the affordable furniture and other items seemed to be selling just as hot.
As many students recently graduated and prepped to move, stuff they no longer needed escaped the unethical—not to mention, smelly—dumpsters. Instead, they were organized for resale to other students in need of practicality and pizzazz for their new or existing dorms and apartments. In June, three successful SOS sales demonstrated the promise of the proposed program expansion, first established in 2010 as an initiative to minimize waste.
A large portion of this waste is generated during hectic move-in and move-out weeks. Campus paths and trash bins become cluttered with abandoned possessions. Nearby neighborhood dumpsters overflow from students living off-campus, littering the alleys of the surrounding community. These belongings needed a place to belong again.
It is not, however, just about the stuff. Melena Braggs, an intern on the waste team at the Office of Sustainability, has worked on this project for over a year. She said that WashU students from low-income households are one of the main stakeholder groups that will benefit from the program. Furnishing a new place and getting school supplies carries a significant financial burden. This is a need that is essential to address. Luckily, she reports that after analyzing participant information, the program is doing a good job at reaching and addressing students from such backgrounds.
Promoting a sharing economy culture to address multi-faceted societal and environmental issues can sound like an intimidating job. Mail and Receiving Services stepped up to the plate. Laurie Brady, Manager of General Operations, and her team have put in countless hours to prepare the space for customers and collect the materials. For years she has streamlined efforts and innovation at the university. Brady has applied these skills to this program, which is both a passion project, but also a unique opportunity to expand Mail Services by using existing resources and staff time that is underutilized at certain times of the year.
So, what types of things were available in this cornucopia of a warehouse? There were drawers, tables, desks, lamps, sofas, chairs, rugs, pillows, comforters, shelving, office supplies, mirrors, dishes, decor, clothes, and more! That may seem like a lot, but this is just scratching the surface. Check out the slideshow below for a peek—you never know what you’ll find in this treasure trove.
According to Thomas Clifton, a Support Services Attendant for Campus Mail, people were in awe of both the quality and the cheap prices of items. While working the recent sales, he noted that there was a “showroom” in the front with furniture displayed with top-notch feng shui in mind. As a result, “some people left with full living room sets,” shared Clifton. There was even an instance where a parent stood bewildered when they found the exact IKEA couch they just bought for their child—with a price tag of $50 instead of the $500 she had paid eariler in the day. Let’s hope that IKEA has a forgiving return policy, right?
Customers were satisfied, so word spread fast. Parents raved about it on Facebook. Students were texting their friends and posting about it on social media. In fact, Clifton said he even saw a guy making a TikTok dance video in the warehouse. One thing’s for sure: SOS was in full swing.
The program intends to keep up—and even increase—the tempo. There are plans to expand and improve SOS now and in the future to encourage a culture of circularity on campus. Clifton mentioned improving drop-off and collection logistics. He hopes to have two full teams—collectors and sorters—and to hold more frequent sales.
Braggs believes that the customer pool can spread to a wider range, including more graduate students. Currently, both Clifton and Braggs emphasize the continual evolution to cater to customer satisfaction and logistical efficiency. Whether this means sorting shoes into pairs on shelves (instead of throwing them into a bin where one could easily lose a LEFT or RIGHT foot), or increasing signage for easy navigation and identification, there is a dedicated crew ready to do it.
Keep a lookout for dates and information about SOS move-in sales happening during the start of the fall semester. A landscape of previously deemed “waste” transformed to thrifted luxury awaits.