Piloting a Sustainable Move-Out in West Campus

West Campus Move Out success


Before last summer—when [Re]Move + [Re]Use piloted a diversion program—Austin’s West Campus neighborhood would be piled high with abandoned couches, mattresses, and rugs as a large swath of the apartments quickly emptied. These items typically headed to the landfill, but 2018 changed that and usable items found new homes. As a result of the pilot program’s success, Mayor Steve Adler and Councilwoman Kathie Tovo proclaimed January 31, 2019 [Re]Move + [Re]Use Day.

“This past summer was the result of years of planning, so seeing the dream finally come to fruition was quite rewarding,” says Madelyn Morgan, UT’13 and planner for Austin Resource Recovery. “The energy and interest throughout from a spectrum of community members also really kept the wheels turning. Community cooperation and buy-in is key.”

About a quarter to a third of UT students live in West Campus, and the trash associated with moving had become unsustainable. Morgan collaborated with Keep Austin Beautiful, State of Texas Alliance for Recycling, and UT Austin’s Office of Sustainability (OS) to find a solution for the unwanted stuff left behind apartments and condos.

“We thought it important to participate in the pilot program because we want to promote sustainable practices among students both while they’re on campus and when they’re at home,” says Brianna Duran, a student program coordinator for OS.

The [Re]Move + [Re]Use  pilot had two prongs: small-scale collection from some apartment complexes throughout the summer and a larger event for both bulky items like furniture and small items (art supplies, kitchen items, and toiletries) in late July. The event included a communication plan, three drop off stations, and 70 volunteers. Over 5.5 days, 766 loads were dropped off—including a Santa suit and a pair of mirrored side tables that caught the eye of a number of student passerbys—that eight reuse organizations (Goodwill of Central Texas, Lifeworks, Austin Creative Reuse, Street Youth Ministry, Arms of Hope, JOSCO Products, Central Texas Food Bank, and Salvation Army) picked up to redistribute or sell.

The success of the [Re]Move + [Re]Use pilot is clear from a few stats:

  • 62 tons of material (almost 25 tons from the July event) collected and diverted from the landfill
  • an estimated 36.42 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions prevented from entering the atmosphere (data provided by Donate NYC Reuse Impact Calculator)
  • $18,000+ in savings for the five property managers that reported data
  • $136,000 estimated value of recovered material for participating reuse organizations
  • 225 under-served Austin citizens directly benefited by material donated

Next steps include expanding the program for the 2019 move out, so look out for opportunities to volunteer and donate next summer.

“We hope that even more property managers and students see the usefulness of such a program, and that one day this program will run by itself,” says Morgan.

Written by Kristin Phillips, Communications Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability