Creating a Circular Economy Through Lighten Up!

17 October 2022

After a two year hiatus due to the covid pandemic Carleton’s Zero Waste Move-Out Lighten Up event, is back and bigger than ever. In June as Carleton students move out of their housing, they leave donated items they no longer want to Lighten Up! Our goals are to divert waste from the landfill, foster a reuse community and support local nonprofits.

In June of 2022 we collected over 70,000 pounds of donated clothing, bedding, dorm accessories, appliances, books and more from students. The collected items are transported to Laird stadium where they are sorted for sale. Lighten Up! is more than our huge June community sale, this year we held four different sales; one for Carleton seniors, one for Carleton alums, our huge sale for the community and a sale during new student week in the fall. Each of these sales strives to get the desired item into the hands of those who want it, at the time that they want it. Seniors leaving Carleton shop our sale during their senior week as they look to set up residence post Carleton. Alums shop their Carleton themed sale for preowned Carleton clothing and swag. Our community sale is open to everyone and offers the full variety of donated items. New Carls shop our sale during New Student Week where they can pick up hangers, lamps, power strips, dorm decor and more. 

By holding these four distinct sales, we keep even more of the donated items out of the landfill by targeting the items for sale to the specific shopping groups. We keep records of what sells and then adjust our offerings each year to further improve our reuse matches. We offered 5,000 hangers during our new student week sale. Saving hangers for new students creates a circular economy on campus by keeping those hangers out of the landfill and on campus, fewer new hangers are purchased by incoming students. International students are especially excited about our fall sale.

Thanks for finding ways to promote sustainability, reduce waste, and lower costs at Carleton” – the office of international student life. 

We often get asked, “What happens to items that do not sell at Lighten Up!”? Over the years we have developed relationships with local vendors and we match those vendors with our unsold items. Sheets get made into quilts, rugs and drop cloths. T-shirts get made into jump ropes and rags for local farmers. Jeans get made into jackets. Our e-waste is handled by an e-waste recycler. We offer the rest of our unsold clothing and household items to nonprofits; Growing up Healthy, Disabled Veterans, and the Epilepsy Foundation. Using this targeted clean up approach gives us a high waste diversion rate, with only truly unusable items going into the landfill. If an item has life in it, we will find a home for it.

We were excited to welcome you all back to Lighten Up! in 2022 and we look forward to seeing you in 2023. Next year we will be expanding our community sale to a three day event in Carleton’s Laird Stadium.

  • Thursday, June 22, 2023
  • Friday, June 23, 2023 and
  • Saturday, June 24, 2023