UO and local schools team up to reduce waste, serve those in need

UO students are getting help "lightening their load" as they head for home
UO students are getting help "lightening their load" as they head for home

High school students are taking a class in real life as they team up with the University of Oregon housing department to move college students out of the halls – and serve those in the community who need it most.

Under the annual end-of-school-year event “Lighten Your Load,” UO students moving out of residence halls donate items to volunteers with Springfield Public Schools Family Resource Centers, rather than simply throwing it all away.

College students save space and effort while packing for home, and families across Lane County receive much-needed contributions. Through the last day in the residence halls –June 14 – volunteers are collecting clothing, household items, non-perishable food, laundry, bath accessories, books, furniture, electronics and more.

“There are two goals for this program – keep these items out of the landfill as a ‘Campus Zero Waste’ initiative and put them into use in the Eugene-Springfield community,” said Lauren Miller, director of marketing for University Housing.

“Last year, students donated more than 20 tons of reusable items, including non-perishable food, electronics, furniture, clothes and book bags,” she added.

In a new twist this year, high school students from Sheldon, Willamette and Springfield schools are working as volunteers, earning an hourly “wage” that can be used to buy donated items, said Janet Beckman, homeless liaison with Springfield schools. It typically takes more than 400 hours for volunteers to collect and remove all donated items from campus.

FOOD for Lane County also benefits, because university students can donate unused “meal points” – a form of credit for food in the residence halls – to the food pantry. University housing typically donates more than $1,400 in beans, rice and other non-perishables through the program.

- by Matt Cooper, UO Office of Strategic Communications