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Students start "Carolina Thrift" to reduce waste in Chapel Hill

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Carolina Thrift, UNC's new student-run sustainability organization, aims to reduce waste in the University community by reselling unwanted items during move-out. On Aug. 18, the organization held its inaugural sale.

In the fall of 2017, members of UNC’s Greek Sustainability Council, Duncan Richey and Kent Andrews, recognized a need to reduce waste created during move-out at the end of the year at off-campus housing locations. They reached out to the Student Government’s Environmental Affairs Committee and the environmental honors fraternity, Epsilon Eta. It was from these conversations that Carolina Thrift was born. 

Similar to UNC’s “Don’t Ditch It, Donate It!” campaign for on-campus housing, Carolina Thrift collects donations from UNC students moving out of their academic-term living arrangements. They accept almost all household items, furniture, rugs and clothing. During the last two weeks of the spring semester, students could drop off items in designated collections boxes on campus or schedule pick ups for large items through the organization’s website.

Richey, one of the co-founders of Carolina Thrift, said the organization's goals are to encourage students to practice conscious consumerism, provide affordable clothing and furniture and build community at UNC.

“We want to encourage students to think more critically about their consumption habits. Are they always buying new things? Are they using single-use items that they could replace? Overall, we want to encourage a more socially and environmentally responsible consumerism,” said Richey. 

The Board of Directors of Carolina Thrift worked to inventory the donations received and advertise throughout the summer for the organization’s inaugural sale. Despite initial concerns about fronting storage costs, UNC allowed the organization to use an unoccupied facility located away from main campus to temporarily store their inventory. 

On Aug. 18, Carolina Thrift held their first sale in the Great Hall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Isabel Whelchel, treasurer for the organization, estimates that Carolina Thrift earned approximately $8,000 from the first sale alone, with plans to host pop-up sales for small items later in the year. 

“It really mobilized in a way we didn’t expect and I think we’re all really impressed with the results,” said Whelchel. “I mean, to have a thousand people in the room within the first 90 minutes was incredible. I walked outside to the bank to get change, 45 minutes before the sale, and the line was already down to the Pit.”

Carolina Thrift is currently working to establish a grant fund that students and faculty can apply to receive money from in order to fund sustainability initiatives on campus. All proceeds, except those covering operational costs, will go directly into the grant fund. Although they originally received grants from several campus organizations in order to begin, Carolina Thrift hopes to be self-sustaining in future years. 

Despite the large earning potential, the organization maintains that it will not drive up prices to increase profits.

“I can’t speak for future leadership, but our origins are as a sustainability initiative. What we really want is these items to get reused by UNC students or community members,” said Andrews, another co-founder. “Any money that comes out of that and goes into the grant fund is just extra, but ideally it’s not about maximizing the revenue that goes into our grant fund.”

Carolina Thrift will begin accepting applications for general body members and leadership positions in a couple of weeks. 

“It’s become a fun community, especially after the sale. Everyone is really excited about what we can do, and we don’t really have limits," Richey said. "We’re really excited about Carolina and the direction it can take because we think we can be a real fixture on campus."


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