The Green Move Out scheme has continued this summer, thanks to action from a coalition of student volunteers and charity partners with University funding, despite the initiative being initially cancelled due to Covid-19.
Student volunteers – alongside volunteers from the University’s staff – are currently delivering 1,500 purple plastic bags around student accommodation in which students can donate clothing, shoes, bedding, books, electrical items, pots and pans, crockery and cutlery, and in-date tins of food, as they move out of their accommodation.
The bags will be collected by County Durham Furniture Help Scheme (CDFHS) on every weekday between the 20th June and the 24th July. Everything donated will be used to support those in need in the local area.
Having started out in 2005 in Collingwood, where 52 bags were collected, it has run every year since, growing to include all colleges, and students living out in the wider community. It was designed to reduce waste and support the local area, at little effort on the part of students.
This year, the scheme was organised by ECO DU, Durham Student Volunteering, Durham University’s Greenspace, and the County Durham Furniture Help scheme.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and staff being on furlough leave, CDFHS was originally unable to make the deliveries of plastic bags to students. Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), emailed students in May explaining: “due to resourcing issues with our charity partner, County Durham Furniture Help Scheme, the Green Move Out will not be taking place this year for students who live out in private rented accommodation.”
However, after students offered to help run the scheme, the University gave them their full support. In addition, Durham County Council is providing extra refuse and recycling collections – an initiative towards which the University has made a financial contribution. The City of Durham Parish Council was also involved in the development of this year’s scheme.
Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said: “It’s really important to us as a University that we take good care of the beautiful City we share and contribute to environmental sustainability. The Green Move Out scheme helps the environment by reducing the waste going to landfill and also allows students to help a great local charity.
“During this pandemic it has not been easy to organise and we are especially grateful to our student and staff volunteers for stepping in to distribute the Green Move Out flyers and bags this year. It shows again that Durham University students and staff care deeply about our environment and our City.”
Evie Hill, one of the head coordinators of ECO DU, told Palatinate “When the university suggested that the Green Move Out was cancelled, and that student’s belongings would be disposed of instead of recycled or redistributed, ECO DU asked Jeremy Cook if they could collaborate with the university in order to make it happen.
“Anna Marshall, next year’s SU Opportunities Officer, was at the head of organising the new Green Move Out and it’s volunteers. Over the next few days, students will be distributing purple bags to student houses around Durham – the belongings that would have been sent to landfill or disposed of can now be recycled or redistributed by using these purple bags.
“It is so important that even during the Covid-19 pandemic, the university is still held accountable for its environmental impact. It would be great to see as many students as possible using this opportunity to reduce waste!”
Last year, 4,500 bags of donated items were collected during the Green Move Out, including 27 tonnes of reusable items. As of 2017, the scheme had cumulatively raised over £14,000 for local charities through re-use sales, and diverted over 126 tonnes of reusable items from general waste.
Cllr Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We are really pleased in what has been a very challenging year to once again be in a position to team up with our partners to run the Green Move Out project.
“Even though we are in a pandemic, there will be students having to vacate their accommodation and we are running Green Move Out to help them recycle items they know longer want where possible, stopping them ending up in landfill.
“As ever items which can be reused will go to local charities, providing them with much needed support in what will have undoubtedly been a difficult year for them as well.”
Steve Mitton, Chief Executive of CDFHS, said: “Without the students’ help and enthusiasm, Green Move Out this year would not have happened as our resources are all engaged elsewhere, dealing with people badly affected by Covid-19.
“This was a superb and well-co-ordinated volunteer activity rustled up from scratch and if this is what can be done, the student volunteers are most certainly welcome to come back again next year.”
Due to the pandemic, far fewer students are currently living in Durham than normal, as the University took teaching online from the final week of Epiphany Term. Since Government regulations changed to allow students to return to their university address to collect belongings, the University has sought to manage the number of students in Durham at one time by emphasising that current restrictions do not allow overnight stays at properties other than one’s home address. Additionally, students living in college have been allowed to return to collect their belongings during allocated time slots only.
Image: Durham University