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Thursday, October 01, 2020

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Office supply exchange gives staff and community a chance to reuse

<p>The Office of Sustainability stores office supplies for the UROSE program.</p>

The Office of Sustainability stores office supplies for the UROSE program.

Each week, University of Richmond faculty members and staff members visit the Office for Sustainability to search through items ranging from notebooks to feathers. 

They’re shopping for free at UROSE -- the UR office-supply exchange -- a program that is cutting costs for UR employees, and helping the greater Richmond community.

UROSE has been growing since its start in 2011 in a closet of Richmond Hall, UR Director of Sustainability Rob Andrejewski said. The program has now grown and found a new home in the sustainability office, but it operates by the same simple process. Campus community members can donate almost anything they do not need by dropping it off at the sustainability office. The office then schedules “shopping times” -- this spring they're from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays -- when employees can pick up the free items, Andrejewski said. 

Kelsey Fastabend, the program coordinator for UROSE, keeps track of savings.

“Each week I catalog the items taken, and from there determine approximate savings from reusing as opposed to buying in retail locations,” Fastabend said. “Last fall [UR faculty members and staff members] saved approximately $250 per week through the program.”

The items at the exchange range from printer toner and art supplies to folders and binders. The faculty members and staff members love the program and there are many regulars who shop weekly, Fastabend said. 

One of those regulars is Karyn Kuhn, administrative coordinator for the psychology department. Kuhn has been going to the program since its start and almost never misses a week of shopping. 

“I’ve donated everything from rubber fingers to office pads and picked up even more,” Kuhn said. “You never know what you’re going to get there, and everything I take is one less thing that goes into the landfill.”

Andrejewski echoed Kuhn's sentiment. 

“Our goal is to put this stuff to good use,” Andrejewski said. “We want people to think about reusing before purchasing. Just because you’re done with something doesn’t mean that item isn’t useful anymore.”

When items sit on the shelf of the sustainability office for longer than a semester, it becomes time to get creative and figure out how to repurpose them, Andrejewski said. 

Many items that have gone unclaimed are donated to outside organizations. One such organization is Richmond Public Schools, which uses part of an old elementary school on Fendall Avenue as a teacher supply store. 

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“Once a month, we invite teachers to come shop for materials, free of charge,” said William Keenan, a Richmond Public Schools volunteer specialist. “Everything is volunteer-run and donated, and we are always grateful for donations that fill a need in our schools.”

Keenan said UROSE had helped the city’s teachers obtain some of their most-needed items: office supplies.

“We want to bolster the amazing work we know our teachers and students are doing in the classrooms,” Keenan said. “We need the help of our donors to do that.” 

The UROSE program also attracts donations of items that are a little too unconventional for the classroom, such as balls of twine and stacks of wrapping paper. They often find homes in local art studios and similar projects. 

“As long as the items are being used in some way, we’re happy,” Fastabend said. 

Although the office-supply exchange is primarily for UR faculty member, UR staff member and Richmond community use, the sustainability office has ways to engage the students as well. 

“We have Finders Keepers — our clothing swap — coming up where we will take some items from the office-supply exchange out for students,” Andrejewski said. “Then we have the Big Yard Sale at the end of the year where students can receive and donate things during move-out. That program typically saves three to four tractor-trailer loads of things from going into the landfill. The goal is always to keep things out of the trash and help promote sustainability, any way we can.” 

Contact features writer Alex Maloney at alexandra.maloney@richmond.edu.

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