ST. PETERSBURG — The sustainability program at Eckerd College has come up with a responsible — and profitable — strategy for dealing with the mountain of stuff students leave behind when they leave campus in the spring.
On Wednesday, the college held its first “Trash to Treasure” sale, offering up the mini-fridges, coffee makers, sporting goods, computer equipment and other detritus of college life in a thrift-store setting at the Cobb Art Gallery on campus.
“It went really well,” said Evan Bollier, a fellow in Eckerd’s Office of Sustainability. “With the rainy weather, we weren’t sure what kind of turnout we were going to have. But we had a line out the door, a huge line at the cash register. People were buying stuff hand over fist.”
Eckerd said the event would save $4,000 in landfill fees, with 4 1/2 fewer tons of trash disposed of. And by the end of the day, cashiers had rung up about $2,500 in sales.
“It was like Black Friday in here,” said volunteer Aliah Marzolf.
Items ranged from $2 to $3 pairs of shoes to area rugs that went for $5 to $12. Mini-fridges ranged from $25 to $40. Bicycles were popular items, as were microwave ovens and storage containers, Bollier said.
Proceeds go to the Office of Sustainability to support future green projects on campus.
More and more colleges are picking up on the idea of trash-to-treasure sales to keep still-usable items out of the waste cycle. They’re not exclusive to small schools — Penn State University’s annual sale takes place at the school’s football stadium and raises $50,000 for charities.
At Eckerd, volunteers with the sustainability program set out tarps during move-out days so students could drop off what they didn’t want to take with them. The material was then sorted and prepared for sale.
Items that didn’t sell on Wednesday will go back up for grabs next month when incoming freshmen show up at Eckerd looking to outfit their dorm rooms cheaply.
“We’ll absolutely make this an annual event,” Bollier said. “I lost a decent amount of sleep over this in the last two weeks, but it really came together.”