New Giving Wall allows students to reduce their carbon footprints

Credit: Juan Fernandez/ Credit: Juan Fernandez/

The Resnik/West Wing community, the Interdisciplinary House, and Randall Feenstra have created a new, green initiative on campus for students. A “Giving Wall” has appeared in the basement of the University Center, across from the FedEx office. At first glance, it’s just a set of shelves where students can leave their discarded belongings. At second glance, however, it provides students with a convenient way to increase the campus’s environmental sustainability. As the sign next to the wall states, the collaborators’ “goal is for people to voluntarily donate items and take items, creating a free and simple exchange of goods.”

Students can now recycle in a different way than they previously have; rather than recycle plastic bottles or glass, they can recycle old, unused items. By leaving items they no longer want or need on the shelves of the Giving Wall and taking what others have donated, students are aiding in the creation of a sustainable and simple method of recycling. This initiative not only aims to increase campus recycling, it also hopes to benefit the community by re-gifting items to those who need them.

One of Carnegie Mellon’s biggest initiatives in the last few years has been to transform itself into an environmentally friendly campus. The appearance of a student-run initiative like the Giving Wall is evidence of that fact.

Before the Giving Wall, there were — and still are — many resources available for students to become involved in on-campus green initiatives. Initiatives like StepGreen challenge students to reduce their environmental impact and learn how to “green their routine.” Student-run groups like Sustainable Earth, Eco-Reps, and Net Impact all focus on different areas of environmental sustainability.

Sustainable Earth, one of the groups involved in the Giving Wall, hosts and attends many different events to promote awareness of environmental problems on campus. This weekend, the group is participating in “Environment Today: Biodiversity and Environmental Justice,” a weekend-long course that allows Carnegie Mellon students to gather and discuss the environmental issues that are affecting the planet.

Other student-run initiatives that made a splash this year included the Tap Water Project, where students collaborated with CulinArt to install greener water dispensers, and with Carnegie Mellon Orientation staff to ensure that new students were given stainless steel, and thus reusable, water bottles.

However, for those students who do not have the time to commit to one of these groups, they can still give back to the community through the Giving Wall.

“I’m too busy to join an organization, but it’s so easy to drop some of my old stuff off at the UC,” sophomore social and decision sciences major Joanne Yun said. “I think once people know about it, it could be a great way to exchange useful things and lessen our carbon footprint. It’s a win-win situation.”

Alumni who came back for Carnival also commented on the Giving Wall. “It seems like a great idea,” said Brad Hall, a 2009 mechanical engineering graduate. “Even if people take a lot of stuff from it, it plants the idea that we don’t have to throw stuff away, that every used thing still has a utility.”

Cared for by Sustainable Earth and supported by the Student Dormitory Council, the Giving Wall has the potential to make a significant impact on the Carnegie Mellon campus. To become more involved in green initiatives on campus, visit Carnegie Mellon’s green practices website and learn about all the student and campus-run initiatives.