Hello! My name is Ragavendra Maripudi and I am the newest intern for the Office of Sustainability at GW. With each and every experience I have with this position, it becomes increasingly evident to me that the driving force behind the sustainability movement is a collective spirit that is strengthened by meaningful collaboration. This spirit is a dedication to the conservation of the very Earth that sustains us, and I have felt the immense power of this collaboration since the day I started working with the Office of Sustainability: when I was asked to volunteer at the GW Green Move-Out.
It was a hot and lethargic morning when I walked into South Hall on my first day as an intern. My eyes were transfixed on a group of people in matching white t-shirts, each holding a garbage bag, jostling for position around a seemingly endless pile of household supplies. There was a deep, tangible passion that seemed to connect every one of these people. I was handed a bag myself and asked to gather ‘household goods’ (anything other than food and textiles) until I had filled the bag. As I approached the pile, I could feel the energy and excitement radiating off of every person, and as I reached for the pile, I felt it rushing through my own body. From an outside perspective, our task would have seemed relatively mundane, yet every single person seemed deeply engaged. In a flurry, we replaced the pile with organized stacks of garbage bags and within two hours, we loaded them onto multiple trucks to be taken to a recycling center. It was engaging, effective, and fun. It was a clear example of what it takes to bring people together around sustainability.
GW Green Move-Out is an initiative that encourages students to drop off recyclable items such as clothing, perishable food, small furniture, and kitchenware in cardboard boxes in the lobbies of their residence halls as they move out for the summer. A bevy of volunteers then work to sort the left-behind goods and send them to recycling centers and charity partners. In 2014, when the initiative began, Mr. Kris Ferguson, the Zero Waste Coordinator at George Washington’s Facilities Resources and Planning Department, reported that Green Move-Out collected and donated 44,010 pounds of materials to recycle. This May, Mr. Ferguson’s team recorded 59,792 pounds, or almost 30 tons, of materials collected, the most it has ever collected.
This staggering increase is due to collaboration efforts between different communities on and off campus to help preserve these reusable materials. For example, the Department of Energy and Environment for DC has helped through a program called Re-Thread DC to place year-round recycled clothing bins in three residence halls, where they are easily accessible to students and faculty. Green Move-Out has also partnered with “The Store”, GW’s student-run food pantry for food insecure members of the community, to put out boxes for food recycling and monitored them for contamination. Green Move-Out is working to involve every individual and organization in the GW community to recycle massive amounts of materials during late May and early June.
With my experience volunteering for them, I learned Green Move-Out is more than simply a service for a few weeks in the year. It is a movement that brings people together in their passion to do something, no matter how small, to conserve the massive amounts of waste we produce. The kind of camaraderie that this campaign produces fosters a feeling of tremendous love for the conservation of our earth. In order to face climate change with a bold attitude, we must create more emotional and meaningful movements like the GW Green Move-Out.
For more information about Green Move-Out and to sign up for volunteering, check out: https://living.gwu.edu/green-move-out