Eco-Mind: UVM Renews, Recycles Classrooms

Becoming the “Environmental University” requires thinking out of the box, and occasionally out of the country.

Erica Spiegel and Corey Berman of the Recycling and Solid Waste Department at the University recently contracted with the Institutional Recycling Network (IRN), based in Concord, New Hampshire, to coordinate a very large donation of classroom and library equipment and furniture to Nicaragua, the Caribbean basin, and Central America.

Understanding that “giving back to the community” can include a global reference today, Erica and Corey worked with a local firm, Action Moving, and the IRN to supply a non-profit organization, Food for the Poor, with surplus furniture to distribute to disaster relief areas.

Over the semester break, the furniture from the general purpose classrooms in Votey, Living/Learning and Angell Hall was removed, and the classrooms received a facelift along with new furniture.. All of the old furniture is to be reused, mostly in Nicaragua, which has recently suffered from natural disasters.

Similarly, bookcases, desks and shelving, and high-quality study carrels from the old Dana Medical Library and the Bailey/Howe library were also donated.

“The IRN is in the business of facilitating the smooth transition from getting the materials out of the building and into the shipping containers, and seeing to it that everything arrives at the proper destination.” Said Corey Berman, UVM Recycling Program Assistant. “They were invaluable in cutting the red tape of international relief efforts.”

A total of 1,169 pieces of furniture were loaded into five 50-foot long tractor trailers, totaling over 93,200 pounds (54 tons) of donated material. This kept the 8-person moving crew busy for a full 3 days, or a total of 192 man hours of work to load the trucks.

Timing of the project was critical to coordinate the removal of old furniture and allow time for installation of the new furniture.

In 2004, UVM worked with another agency, Food for the Poor and the Center for Ecological Technology, on a similar project to remove and donate over 500 old classroom chairs from the Waterman Building.

December’s project is part of a larger three-year initiative to invest in classroom improvements for UVM students. For more information about the Institutional Recycling Network, please visit www.ir-network.com.