Every year, as Wesleyan students empty their rooms at the end of the Spring semester, they fill dumpsters with usable items – everything from clothing and room décor to small appliances.
“There was still more waste generated than we like,” said Hayley Berliner, temporary sustainability director. “We want to divert as much as we can.”
Debbra Goh ’24 and Annie Volker ’24, both eco-facilitators for Wesleyan Sustainability, have come up with an idea on how to lessen the waste. The duo will launch WesThrift at 284 High next fall, a free store for clothing and dorm essentials located in the lower level of the College of the Environment (COE). Similar to Wesleyan’s annual Waste Not program, the store will encourage students to repurpose functional items year-round, rather than increase the University’s waste streams, as part of a continued effort to improve Wesleyan’s environmental footprint.
The concept had a test run on Earth Day, April 22. Over 100 students visited the lawn behind the COE and rummaged through piles of clothes, looking for necessities or something just plain fun. For example, Volker picked up some shorts and a formal dress she planned on wearing that night to an event.
Currently the Resource Center conducts semi-regular clothing swaps. However, with their current storage space being converted into an office, WesThrift’s space will allow for the long-term continuity of the program. “Why not think bigger and make it more permanent?” said Goh, an environmental studies and religion double major. “There is just so much waste that we aren’t able to capture.”
The Resource Center will continue to be an important partner in the work and the hope is that WesThrift will be able to work with the Gordon Career Center to help students find free professional attire. “We saw a need and we are just making it work,” said Volker, a government and economics double major.
While Goh and Volker’s primary motivation is to help get rid of a waste stream, there is another important consideration— by making good clothing and dorm essentials available for free, it makes it easier for people from low-income backgrounds or first-generation college students to fully engage in the Wesleyan experience. Goh came to Wesleyan from Singapore with two bags—nothing to help set up her dorm, or warm clothes for the cold New England winters. A resource like WesThrift would’ve helped ease her transition. “We want to remove barriers to equity and access,” Goh said.
They plan on transforming the COE’s basement storage room into a warm and inviting environment filled with plants and white string lights. “I really wanted to do something that would have a lasting impact on campus,” Volker said.
Students can donate by bringing acceptable items (lightly warn, clean clothes and shoes, or dorm essentials) to the COE. A large outdoor donation bin will be set up in the back of 284 High Street.