Luther College diverts 12 tons of waste from landfills during move out week

Luther College’s Move Out Mindfully student-led initiative has kept more than 12 tons of waste out of the landfill. During move out week, May 10 to May 17, 60 student workers and volunteers implemented various tactics in an effort to reuse and recycle, rather than waste. 

“In addition to organizing donation rooms in each of the residence halls on campus and educating the student body on the impacts of their waste, move out workers embrace the smells and textures of the dumpsters to ensure that all recyclable and reusable items have been salvaged,” said Logan Olson, Move Out Mindfully student coordinator. “We work to connect with students to make sure that they know how to properly sort their waste, utilize move out week donation facilities and reduce the footprint of their move out as much as possible.”

Since it began in 2014, the Move Out Mindfully initiative has reduced the waste sent to the landfill by over 50%. This year alone, more than 11,000 pounds of recyclable material was sent to Winneshiek County Recycling, 8,700 pounds of clothing and household items were taken to the Depot Outlet, 1,000 pounds of food was donated to the Decorah Community Food Pantry and 1,100 pounds of compost was sent to the college farm. 

“There is a huge sense of pride when we get to send a full truck of donations to Decorah's Depot Outlet thrift store or drive a truck full of compost bins to Luther's campus farm. It feels good to know that Luther's donations can benefit our community and the compost we collected will fertilize the gardens that will grow fresh produce for the next generation of Luther students. Instead of being buried in the landfill forever, these waste diversions create a legacy that extends beyond our 4 years at Luther,” said Olson.

Olson credits their community partners whom they’ve built relationships with over the years including the Depot Outlet and Winneshiek County Recycling Center, but this effort would largely go undone without student leadership.   

“The move out program is a great example of the ways in which Luther students are shaped to be engaged members of their communities. Student coordinators, such as myself, are in charge of recruiting and training student volunteers, coordinating with community and campus partners and doing the work of waste sorting and diversion during move out week.”

A recent $1,700 Landfill Reduction Grant from the Winneshiek County Solid Waste Agency was used to purchase special event waste sorting containers that were used during move out weekend to sort out unwanted items. Moving forward, those containers will be used on campus to collect recyclable and compostable materials at outdoor events. The grant money was also used to install a permanent outdoor four-compartment bin to collect recyclables, trash and compostables on campus to continue this waste-free momentum. 

About Luther College

Luther College is home to more than 1,800 undergraduates who explore big questions and take action to benefit people, communities and society. Our 60+ academic programs, experiential approach to learning and welcoming community inspire students to learn actively, live purposefully and lead courageously for a lifetime of impact. Learn more at luther.edu.

Luther students Adrienne Clefisch '23 and Elise Wilson '24 give a thumbs-up as another truck is loaded and off to the Depot Outlet
Faye Duster '22 adds collected compostable material to the college farm's compost pile
Erin Keller '21 rescues recyclables from a dumpster