This year marked the seventh Trash 2 Treasure sale, an annual extravaganza during which items donated by students are sold to the general public at reduced prices. The proceeds are given to the United Way, which tackles issues of education, income, and health in the Greater Philadelphia area and Southern New Jersey. This year's three-day sale was a bustling success and raised over $22,000 - a strong follow-up to last year's record-breaking $26,000.
Walking into the Lamb-Miller Fieldhouse during the sale is comparable to entering a labyrinth. One makes their way through towers and clusters of everything from clothes hangers to toiletries, snaking walls of mini refrigerators, and a small forest of desk and standing lamps. The display - exhilarating in its magnitude - was assembled by student volunteers who worked for weeks after the end of the semester to compile and organize the goods with the support of Patti Shields, director of Environmental Services. Faculty and staff from the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility and Public Safety also contributed to the effort.
"Trash 2 Treasure brings together both the students and the greater community," says student coordinator Sarah Kim '13, an English literature major from Montrose, Calif., who has been involved with the sale for four years. "I really like that aspect of bonding with everyone who we wouldn't normally come in contact with."
Hannah Armbruster '15, another coordinator, also cited the connections made during the process as a plus. She described making improvised meals out of donated foodstuffs with the other volunteers as a hectic but rewarding experience.
"I'm a recipe person," says the neuroscience major from Lancaster, Pa. "Cooking with the materials we have and finding a meal in that, it's a cool challenge." In some ways, making an edible meal out of a random collection of canned goods is a lot like making a cohesive sale out of a huge number of donated items. Putting it all together requires creativity and patience.
Although students may own and discard tons of things that end up being useless at college, there will always be a buyer for even the most random object. Armbruster noted that people anticipate the sale for weeks in advance. "People are excited," she says.
The environmental aspect of the sale is also significant. "This is actually making a big difference in how much waste we produce," Armbruster says. The sale is a "huge environmental effort," Kim agrees.
Debra Kardon-Brown, assistant director for student programs at the Lang Center, describes Trash 2 Treasure as both a fund-raiser and a "campus-wide recycling event." She believes that "any event of this magnitude which demonstrates a clear commitment to diverting such a large volume of usable stuff from landfills and back into homes and offices should be celebrated as a great achievement."
As successful as the sale was, Kardon-Brown still sees room for improvement in future years. "Initial changes will focus on the collecting and sorting process, recruitment and retention of volunteers, and the security of the materials being held for the sale," she says. "I hope that potential student volunteers will find this sale to be an opportunity to iterate their commitment to environmental responsibility, and a way to extend the benefits of the sale to our most needy community partners."