Sustainability Office Project Gives to Financial Aid

July 20, 2016

A raft of student interns and area coordinators support the work of Wesleyan's Sustainability Office, which is headed by Sustainability Coordinator Jen Kleindienst. Together they undertake actions from developing policies and projects aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy sources to implementing initiatives that decrease waste and reduce the University's carbon footprint.

For instance, working with the student group Wes to Wes, which is committed to raising funds for financial aid, the Sustainability Interns recently launched the 2014-15 season of "Do It in the Dark." This is an annual energy-saving competition among all student residences. Each semester the winning group receives a prize, and the University's total savings from energy reductions go toward financial aid.

The Sustainability Office also expresses regard for long-term campus well-being in another intriguing way--through a project that culminates in a direct contribution to financial aid. This year Molly Steinfeld '15 is one of two Sustainability Interns, along with Michael Ortiz '17. A major in CSS and French Studies, Molly increasingly has become involved with sustainability issues and is writing a thesis on food policy. Among their other tasks, she explains, the Sustainability Interns have the chief responsibility for planning and carrying out the annual "Waste Not" program.

Each May the interns publicize the opportunity for students to take part in reuse of unwanted household items ranging from appliances to alarm clocks. Donated goods are amassed in two locations, the interconnected backyards on Fountain Avenue and a garage on Brainard Avenue. This part of the operation markedly reduces the number of castaways littering campus and community streets and the energy use required to collect and dispose of them.

Returning early to campus at the end of the summer, the Sustainability Interns sort and price the collected merchandise. While items like sofas, refrigerators, electronics, and pots and pans predominate, Molly notes that there always are unusual additions. "Dress-up clothes--lots of boas," she says. "A surprising amount of Christmas decorations and tons of student artwork." She continues, "Last year there was a mirror with 'You are beautiful' painted on it."

The Waste Not Tag Sale takes place during the first week of classes, and it's a major event. "There was a line around the corner of Brainard Avenue this year," Molly says. The sale provides students with convenient shopping at low cost. This year transactions set a record, bringing in $11,000. Once overhead costs are subtracted, the two interns and Jen Kleindienst decide where to donate the net proceeds. This year, as they did last year, they split their donation between the community and the campus.

The Sustainability Interns gave $3,500 to St. Vincent de Paul, and they also contributed $3,500--their second consecutive gift--to Wesleyan's Raise the Cap Fund. (Students initiated this program, through which all money raised over the Wesleyan Fund goal of $10.25 million goes into the endowment, to increase future financial aid budgets. Last year this resulted in adding over $100,000 to financial aid endowment.)

In her note informing President Roth of the donation, Molly wrote, "As a student, I hope that in raising money for financial aid we can provide greater opportunity for others to experience what Wesleyan University has to offer."