Going, Going, Gone: Left-Behind Dorm Items Find New Owners

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The annual sustainability sale drew crowds of bargain hunters this week.

Annual sustainable moving sale
Mini-refrigerators were a big hit at the annual sustainable moving sale. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

Well before sunup on Sept. 5 bargain hunters started lining up on Tuck Drive, waiting for Dartmouth’s annual rite of autumn—the sustainable moving sale—to open for business. Dozens of first-year students and their parents apparently didn’t mind losing sleep to get first dibs on dorm necessities and decor donated by graduating seniors and other students who have moved off campus. Founded by students in 2006, it is still student-run with the help of volunteers.

“We’ve got at least 300 mini-fridges out here,” said Grace Phillips ’20, the sustainability office intern who manages the sale. “They’d probably cost about $150 new, but you can get them from us today for 25 to 50 bucks.” Other hot items: floor lamps, small plastic bureaus, single-cup coffee makers, books, refurbished bikes, and, on a day that was expected to reach an unseasonable 90 degrees, portable fans. 

“I’d have been willing to tackle someone for this little pink fan,” said Aziz Woodward ’22, of Rochester, N.Y. He was helping Brooklynite Jocelyn Lopez ’22 lug a half-size refrigerator to the pre-checkout line. There, sporting a rainbow-colored tulle tutu and matching feather boa (sale volunteers were all colorfully costumed), Hannah McGrath ’21 was inspecting items and writing prices on slips of paper to be presented, with cash or a check, at the table of clerks working under a canopy at the edge of the lawn.  

Woodward opened the refrigerator door. “Hey,” he said, “the shelves are missing. Can you mark it down more?”  

“Everything goes as is,” McGrath replied. “You want to go get another one?”

“Nope,” said Lopez, “This is fine.” 

Farther back in line, Jeff Maina ’22 said he was happy to get a fridge with shelves. “It would have been impossible to bring something like this from my home in Kenya,” he said. “It’s important to have it, because you can’t always find time to go somewhere for lunch, and if you just keep food stored in here you can eat whenever you want, even late at night. I don’t have a car, so this sale is good for me.”  

A few steps away, Gregor Mattedi Sarmento ’22, from Brazil, was trying to juggle, in one hand, a green binder, a white-board wall calendar, and a desk fan, while, with the other, wheeling a scooter toward the long checkout line.  

“This is great. Ten bucks,” he said. “Cheaper than a bike.” 

Phillips was happy to see piles of stuff being carried away. “This event is not so much about the money, though proceeds—usually about $10,000— do help the sustainability program,” she said. “It’s even more important to get rid of all this stuff and help other students.” 

She and other sale volunteers spent countless hours over the last few months, building and sorting inventory.

“We advertise all spring for collections, and residential life staff takes bins into dorm rooms. People put their stuff in bins, and it all goes to a warehouse across the river owned by the College,” Phillips said. “We go through everything and separate it into trash, recycling, or donations. We take a lot to Listen Center or the Salvation Army, and the rest we put into containers. We test all the electronic things, like fans and fridges, and load it all onto a big 16-wheeler truck. We unloaded all day yesterday and sorted it into sections.”

“To me,” said Assistant Sustainability Office Director Jenna Musco, “what you see here is all about juniors and seniors giving back, helping the first-years. The older students take the extra effort to make the donations, and they help new students move in. Plus, it’s a serious amount of waste that we are keeping out of landfills.” 

As it turned out, it paid not only to come early, but also to arrive late to the outdoor bonanza. Around 1:15, in sweltering heat, as the sale wound down, Chibuzo Chiwike ’22, from Nigeria, was pushing a hand truck to the corner of Tuck Drive and North Main Street. Her cargo: maybe the best deal of the day. 

“This refrigerator was $50 this morning, but I just paid 10,” Chiwike said.

She had no idea what she would keep in there, she said, but it just seemed too good to pass up. 

Charlotte Albright can be reached at charlotte.e.albright@dartmouth.edu

Charlotte Albright