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Free piles in dormitories become campus Reuse Depot

Helena Guan

Treasure hunters seeking free items can follow the narrow hallways of Reinhardt Hall to a room reminiscent of common retail stores or a local swap meet. Alongside Post Road is the new home of the legendary free piles in Mills dorms, now known as the Sustainability and Reuse Depot.

The free treasure trove – open Monday through Thursday at 4 – 5 p.m. – was created by the Mills Earth C.O.R.P.S. [Community Organized to Respect, Protect, and Sustain the Earth] and HMDS last semester.

The project began in a smaller space at Mary Morse Hall, before HMDS designated a more efficient space in the C-Wing of Reinhardt Hall. The room previously housed the wireless connection board on campus. It took over half of the 2008 fall semester to set up and create the facility, which is made of recycled goods.

“It was a cool thing, [a donor purchased] our supplies from Urban Ore, the model for the Reuse Depot in Berkeley that recycles and sells stuff found in the local dump,” said Magee Page, co-president of Earth C.O.R.P.S.

The makeshift shelves and concrete slabs of the depot are some of the many items that once were laid in a city landfill. Club members set up wooden shelves to house all the goods and donated bookcases to store canned food and literature.

The depot is about the size of an average dorm room with three built-in sections displaying everything from gardening tools to purses.

The left corner of the room displays a large collection of the most donated item: school supplies. There are binders, portfolios, notebooks, pens, pencils, tabs, erasers, pencil sharpeners and all the essentials for the next lecture or exam. Earth C.O.R.P.S. members have even decorated some binders and notebooks.

“We want to keep as much school stuff [as we can] so incoming students next year won’t have to buy supplies,” said Sophie Leininger, co-president of Earth C.O.R.P.S. and organizer of the Depot. “We even have a lot of stuff for dorms too.”

The center and right area of the room hosts an even bigger collection of hanging clothes and other fashion accessories to benefit students looking for a sweater or a Christmas-themed bathrobe. Shoes are lined up below the shelves with a pair of old-fashioned Dock Martins waiting for someone to wear to their next professional interview.

“I think the coolest clothes we have are costumes leftover from Halloween and a lot of funky accessories,” said Leininger, holding up a pair of plastic pirate pants. She suggested students should go to the Depot to find a free outfit for an upcoming party or event.

The Depot also stores board games, outdoor accessories, video cassettes, phone chargers, kitchen supplies, keyboards, gardenware and much more. It is also open to Oakland residents.

“Every once [in a] while, we get someone outside Mills to come by to either donate or check out what we have to offer,” Page said.

Earth C.O.R.P.S. members are assigned to run the space. They spend most of their time doing inventory and checking items for cleanliness before setting the goods in their appropriate places.

“I really enjoy this work, it’s a lot of fun sorting through stuff that people give,” said Page, who giggled as she placed anti-diarrheal medication on the right shelf of the room.

“I have found a lot of expensive designer things, including a 100 percent cashmere scarf,” Leininger said, “But I like the cheaper things too like this T-shirt that says, ‘Cold Bacon.'”

Some items are also donated to campus facilities and lounges, including the Parenting Lounge.

“We’ve given baby strollers, kid’s clothes, bottles and all other child-related stuff goes straight to them [the Parenting Lounge],” said Page, as she and Leininger sorted through three plastic bags filled with stuffed animals and children’s clothes.

At the end of the year, the large influx of donated goods from students cleaning out their dorms will be given to local charities in the Bay Area.

“Students should stay tuned for the Reuse Drive coming up,” said Leininger. Drop boxes are available in front of the Depot, and in the white drop-in bins in most dormitories on campus.

Leininger and Page are two advocates for recycling initiatives on campus and said they hope students utilize the Depot during the tough economic times.

“Students are feeling the pinch, I’m feeling it too,” Page said. “I think my favorite thing about this is it shows how important community is during this time. If someone needs anything, a toothbrush or even an iPod charger, we have it. People just have to come and get it.”

How to get there
If you’re at the entrance to Ege Hall, continue down the paved road. The building will be on your right with a sign outside that says “Sustainability Center.” Go through the door near the sign and the Depot will be on your right.