A greener approach to end the academic year

Various departments across Penn have amped up efforts to provide on- and off-campus opportunities for students wishing to donate materials during May.

Person gives bag to another person staffing donation truck with PennMOVES "Donation Location" sign in background
Cindy Zhu (right) is one of 95 PennMOVES student volunteers this year, helping to staff Goodwill donation locations on campus throughout May.

Efforts have expanded this year to ensure student Move-Out for the summer break is more clean, green, and convenient than ever before. On campus, PennMOVES—operated by Business Services—is in full effect, partnering with Goodwill to collect materials students can’t take with them when they leave campus. Additionally, Penn Sustainability, the Office of Social Equity & Community, and the Office of Government & Community Affairs have increased coordination for students moving from their off-campus apartments to donate and properly dispose of items.  

“We have a responsibility to our community to be good stewards of our materials,” says Nina Morris, director of Penn Sustainability, which is housed in Facilities & Real Estate Services. “There’s so much more value in the materials that we have when we find a good home for them, and I think that’s really important to teach, and also to break down the barrier so that students can make the right choice as well.”

On campus, students may drop clothes, furniture, books, housewares, and unopened, nonperishable food for Goodwill and their partners at various locations near College Houses. One partner in particular includes an e-waste recycler that will accept electronics, functional or not. Larger items should be dropped at the truck at Hamilton Village, which is staffed by student volunteers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Thursday, May 16. Some items donated through PennMOVES—especially quality dorm essentials like storage bins or mini refrigerators—are vetted and set aside for graduating seniors from West Philadelphia high schools who receive the Netter Center’s Marie K. Bogle Scholarship, which is sponsored by Penn VIPS and Business Services. 

Person gives item to another person staffing donation truck
Person brings bag up steps to donation truck. Student volunteer inside, helping

Shennell Tyndell, dining facilities and project manager, says this year 95 students are serving about 20 volunteer hours each for the PennMOVES operation, which earns them a free on-campus housing extension through May 21, a day after Commencement. She also noted that faculty and staff, as well as off-campus residents, are invited to deposit items at any of the on-campus collection locations. 

“This has been a great way to expose students and people at Penn to different opportunities to reduce waste and diversify ways to contribute to our campus sustainability,” says Tyndell. 

Students living off campus are invited to donate kitchen, small furniture, and household items, as well as bikes, clothing, and non-perishable foods, to Resurrection Philadelphia Church on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 25. Also, a new curbside furniture drive collecting furniture for families across Philadelphia and organized by Penn, student group Penn for Refugee Empowerment, and the Philadelphia Furniture Bank, will take place May 18. Students living between 40th and 43rd streets, and Baltimore Avenue and Chestnut Street, can request curbside furniture pick-up. Additionally, for students living within the aforementioned radius, Penn has announced it will provide Friday morning trash collection throughout May to help reduce the amount of waste and litter left behind during Move-Out. This accompanies the city’s regular trash pickup days in the area.

“It takes extra effort and more preparation but a little goes a long way when we keep our blocks clean,” says Scott Filkin, director of the Office of Social Equity & Community. “This is one way to be a good neighbor.” 

Although the PennMOVES initiative has been evolving since 2008, the more elaborate off-campus efforts are newer, and based off at least a year of planning across entities at Penn, as well as with other universities including nearby Drexel, and West Philadelphia organizations. Morris describes the new programming as “an iterative process,” which allows for “learning as we go.” 

“It’s really the feedback of neighbors and community members and students that helps shape the direction of the resources that we can bring to bear,” says Morris. “It really does take everybody making a thoughtful choice, and putting in the time and energy and effort to ensure that these materials are repurposed.”