By Kristina Michel
According to the Council for Textile Recycling, the average U.S. citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and textiles each year. Thanks to the efforts of three members of the Sustainability Task Force, nearly 6,000 pounds of clothing and textiles were saved from a landfill.
The members – Mackenzie Wysong, assistant director for conferences and facilities in Student Housing and Residential Life; Sujata Gautam, a civil and environmental engineering major, resident assistant and member of the Honors College; and Stephanie Coates, executive administrative assistant in UH Energy – partnered with American Textile Recycling Service and the Salvation Army to hold a clothing donation drive during the final three weeks of the spring semester. They placed donation bins inside Cougar Village I and II, Moody Towers, Cougar Place and the Quad residence halls for students to donate clothing, shoes and other textiles they no longer needed as they packed up for the end of semester move-out.
Through their work in Student Housing and Residential Life, Gautam and Wysong had found that clothing and shoes were the most discarded items by students during move-out. They, along with Kayla Fischer, a resident assistant and biology major, began working with Coates on the task force to research opportunities to recycle some of that waste.
“Anytime waste is diverted from a landfill, that’s a more sustainable and better practice for all of us,” said Coates. “It takes 400 to 700 gallons of water to make a single new cotton T-shirt, and it requires energy to manufacture and support it.”
The drive collected 5,855 pounds of clothing and textiles. Of that amount, 4,478 pounds went to American Textile Recycling Service and 1,377 pounds went to the Salvation Army. The donated clothing will be resold or recycled as industry wiping rags, upholstery, automotive stuffing or disaster relief materials like blankets and warm wear.
The Sustainability Task Force is a shared governance body of UH faculty, staff and students, led by the Office of Sustainability, charged with advising University administration on sustainability initiatives. More information about the Sustainability Task Force is available on the Office of Sustainability website.
Coates said that due to the success of the drive, the group is considering making it a standard event during move-out in the fall and spring semesters.
“We started small this year, but if the demand is there, perhaps we could incorporate it with RecycleMania, Earth Week or some of the other great events the Office of Sustainability hosts,” said Coates.