On the nights before trash pick-up, recent Northwestern University grads Conor Metz and Geena Vetula go on “trash-diving dates” in hopes of finding furniture for the Chicago apartment. which they are moving into next month.
With leases ending and students leaving the North West, discarded household goods are piling up near off-campus housing. With a keen eye for abandoned furniture, Metz and Vetula explore the alleys and side streets, especially near Evanston’s most expensive apartment buildings.
“I feel like there’s a connotation that the things you throw in the dumpster are dirty or broken, but they’re all perfectly good,” Metz said. “We got so much furniture from dumpster diving.”
Some of their most impressive finds include a desk, an air purifier, a chair, a coffee table, several large fake plants, and a lamp, all of which they bring to their new apartment. Vetula said many of Evanston’s dumpsters boasted these kinds of finds towards the end of the school year.
Summer means full trash cans
City data confirms that trash cans are particularly full at this time of year.
City staff keep a tally of all apartment buildings and condos with overflowing trash cans. In 2021, the city noted around 30 overflowing bins per month in winter. The number rose to 80 during the summer months.
“We’re seeing a tangible trend when we plan move-ins and move-ins,” said Brian Zimmerman, Solid Waste Coordinator for the City of Evanston. The city typically notes an increase in overflowing dumpsters between May and October, he said.
When trash cans overflow or furniture is left on the sidewalk as trash, the city sends workers on a designated route to collect bulk trash, Zimmerman said. “It’s an increase in service,” he added.
Collect, sell and give away
But students who know they’ll be moving soon might take longer to arrange for used furniture and household items, Zimmerman said. There are resources available for students, but they require planning, he added.
Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and resilience coordinator, said the overflowing dumpsters are just another example of convenience versus planning, but it’s not just limited to the student community.
“I understand why a lot of our trash cans and dumpsters are filled with student moving goods,” Pratt said, “but I think it reflects our culture as a society and how we don’t always take the time to dispose of these items thoughtfully.
Pratt said she recommends students use Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist to sell, buy or donate items.
If students need to get rid of but goods, Zimmerman suggested they keep their property managers updated on move-in or move-out times, as they might be able to provide dumpsters or schedule a trash can or more accommodating recycling. program.
“I really advocate for students to get into the habit of trying to communicate with their landlords or their property management groups,” he said.
Landfills: the ultimate impasse
It takes time, energy and the extraction of raw materials to create household items, Zimmerman said. When items are thrown in the trash, they end up in a “complex and elaborate hole in the ground”, he added, so they should be used for as long as possible.
Wasteful behavior also contributes to climate change. “Material breaks down in the landfill because of compaction or just decomposition,” Zimmerman explained. “This emits greenhouse gases which often seep into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.”
Reusing or recycling an item extends its life. This benefits the environment as well as the community, as many donation centers and charities find productive ways to support the local community using donated goods, Zimmerman said.
Donating items also reduces the need to create new items, Pratt said. “If you have a blender you no longer want, it’s so much better to give your blender to a neighbor than it is for your neighbor to go to Amazon and buy a new blender,” he said. she declared.
Resources for students
Those wishing to donate furniture and household items can drop them off or schedule a pickup with the following local organizations:
Outpost of Art Makers. This environmentally conscious art studio, located at 609 South Blvd., is dedicated to reusing materials to create art. Over 75% of the materials used at the studio would otherwise end up in landfills.
- what to give: The studio accepts used art supplies, but also a variety of other materials, including shoeboxes, tools, pins, clean food containers, packing styrofoam, and silverware. A more detailed list can be found here.
- Getting There : Most donations are dropped off at the Art Studio, which is conveniently located just behind the South Boulevard CTA station. Students can also email [email protected] to arrange a pickup.
Good will. Located at 1916B Dempster St. in Evanston Plaza, Goodwill accepts a wide variety of household items, making it a great place to drop off any items students are unable to sell or donate to nonprofits. lucrative.
- What to give: Goodwill accepts used clothing, games, household items, electronics, trinkets and other household items. A more detailed list can be found here.
- Getting There : Donating to Goodwill can be tricky for students who don’t have access to a car, as the nonprofit organization doesn’t offer pickup. The Goodwill on Dempster Street is a 10-minute drive from campus.
The Salvation Army. An alternative to Goodwill, students can donate items to the Salvation Army at 4335 Oakton St. in Skokie.
- What to give: The Salvation Army accepts clothing, books, bicycles, pots and pans, furniture including beds, mattresses, desks, and some appliances including air conditioners and microwaves. A more detailed list can be found here.
- Getting There : The nearest Salvation Army is located in Skokie, approximately a 15 minute drive from Northwestern campus. Pickup is currently unavailable due to a shortage of drivers, but may resume in a week or two. Salvation Army employees recommend that students call (570) 371-4180 to see if pick-up is available.
brown elephant. Proceeds from this thrift store go to Howard Brown Health, a health care center that provides health and wellness programs to the LGBTQ+ community. The Brown Elephant has multiple locations across Chicago.
- What to give: Similar to Goodwill and the Salvation Army, the Brown Elephant collects clothing, jewelry, decorative items, household items, and furniture, including dressers, desks, bookcases, and sofas.
- Getting There : The closest brown elephant is located at 5404 N Clark St. in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago, but the store will also pick up furniture and household items. Email [email protected] to schedule a pickup.
The rebuilding exchange. With a location in Chicago and one in Evanston, the Rebuilding Exchange is a nonprofit organization committed to sustainability and the reuse of building materials. The non-profit organization offers workshops and a training program, while operating a retail store selling housewares and building materials.
- What to give: The association accepts appliances, including mini-fridges, air conditioners, electric kettles, and hardwood furniture, such as dressers and kitchen tables, in good condition.
- Getting There : Students with cars can drop off furniture at the Evanston location at 1245 Hartrey Ave., and those without one can schedule a pickup on the association website.
Evanston Community Refrigerators. This self-help project combats food insecurity by encouraging the community to donate food to four public refrigerators located across Evanston.
- What to give: Community refrigerators accept food items including fruits, vegetables, cheese, breads, sauces, unopened yogurt and milk, eggs, and sealed milk.
- Getting There : The closest community fridge is the Soul Fridge at 1601 Payne St., a five-minute drive from campus, but the Sunrise Fridge at 717 Custer Ave. is located two blocks from the main CTA station, making it easier to reach without an auto.
With a little planning, students can divert household items and furniture from landfills. “We’d like to see people send usable material to these local establishments and make it a more common practice,” Zimmerman said.