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Open for business

Tackling sustainability at Hatcher House thrift shop on April 20

Student Life

By Claire Carter

Margarita Conway started thinking about reducing waste on campus before she was even a student.

Donations of clothing and bedding for Students First Thrift shop
Clothing and textiles from last year’s Hatcher House Commons thrift shop sale. This year’s sale is on Saturday, April 20.
Photo: Submitted

The Faculty of Education alumna’s sister lived in Burton’s Pond.

When she picked her up at the end of the year, Ms. Conway was surprised to see food and gently used items swarmed by wasps in overflowing dumpsters.

Garbage was going into the pond and cleanups took place as a result.

“One of the things you’ll notice if you visit student residences during the move-out period is the huge rented dumpsters placed around campus,” said Blake Colbran, Cluett Hall president and the sustainability committee co-chair. “They usually get full from people attempting to purge before moving out, creating huge amounts of waste. The sale started to help divert waste to something productive.”

Diverted 1,200 items

In her first year in residence, Ms. Conway observed many new and lightly used items thrown away simply because students didn’t have space to take all their belongings with them or have the time to donate them.

She and Emma Thompson, the former chair of the sustainability committee, would collect unopened food items.

They then went room to room collecting armfuls of items, rehoming where needed.

From there, Ms. Conway created the Students First thrift store project through the Faculty of Education’s Dr. Dorothy Vaandering’s ED-3062: Social Studies in Primary Elementary School class projects.

Fellow Education students Ryan Wall and Kaitlyn Menchions came onboard, and the Students First group was formed.

Team of Students First members holding thank you and we are open signs.
A group of student thrift store volunteers.
Photo: Submitted

The students were tasked with finding solutions for problems facing community groups.

Last spring, the Students First group held its first thrift store event.

The sale diverted more than 1,200 items from landfills.

The project has grown with the help of Dr. Vaandering, who helped secure grants and navigate the university’s administrative processes.

The group operates with the help of student and alumni volunteers, Memorial’s Undergraduate Career Experience Program and International Student Work Experience Program grants, and collaboration with the MUN Sustainability Committee.

“Bedding shouldn’t be an issue to get a good night’s sleep.” — Margarita Conway

There have been some legendary finds: full-length alpaca coats, original ’90s concert t-shirts and many new with tag items.

But the community and environmental impact is what keeps the group motivated.

“We always get rid of all of our bedding and pillows,” said Ms. Conway. “There are so many students that don’t have any bedding and will sleep without. It’s something we don’t realize is such a privilege for others. People can declutter and provide solutions. Their business attire can be put to good use by people who are coming up and don’t have those things. I want every student coming to Memorial University to be set up for success. To have every opportunity coming to them. Clothing should not be a barrier for being able to get a job. Bedding shouldn’t be an issue to get a good night’s sleep.”

Permanent store?

Ms. Conway has graduated, but the need for the sale remains.

She would like to see the social enterprise grow into a permanent on-campus thrift store, similar to other Canadian universities and colleges.

Dr. Vaandering says they want to see the initiative to continue and grow, to have a system in place where students can access affordable bedding and clothing when they first come to campus and during their time here

“So they can have what they need when they need it,” said Dr. Vaandering. “To do this, we need Memorial administrative support and the expertise of business and social enterprise to move this forward.”

Students First will hold this year’s thrift shop sale at Hatcher House Commons in Paton College, 31 Livyer’s Loop, on the St. John’s campus on Saturday, April 20.

On Friday, April 19, freshly washed clothing, bedding and household items will be accepted from 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

The sale takes place on Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Items are available by donation and Students First is asking for a $2 donation for entry. Shoppers can donate cash, e-transfer or give by debit or credit. All proceeds will go to the campus food bank.

Leftover items will be donated to community groups, such as Iris Kirby House, the Gathering Place and Flat Bay in Bay St. George.

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