Woman donating toaster during Clutter for a Cause at a table outside
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When Pitt students move out, Clutter for a Cause finds a new life for stuff that’s left behind

  • University News
  • Community Impact
  • Our City/Our Campus

When students move out at the end of spring semester, not all of their stuff goes with them. Items left behind — often fully functioning lamps, refrigerators, TVs, kitchen appliances and furniture — can add up, cluttering streets and sidewalks and filling landfills.  

On the Pittsburgh campus, students aren’t the only ones in the Oakland community, a neighborhood with residents who’ve lived there for decades. As part of its commitment to being a good neighbor, the University of Pittsburgh takes seriously its role in helping students understand that they are members of a bustling, historic community whose properties and residents should be respected.

So to combat move-out trash, Pitt’s annual Clutter for a Cause offers students a more sustainable alternative for those unwanted items.

Not only does Clutter for a Cause divert usable and quality items to reuse and recycle instead of landfills — it also “provides our students with the opportunity to be good neighbors in their adopted community,” said Erika Ninos, sustainability coordinator for the division of Students Affairs.

The program is a joint effort between the Office of Engagement & Community Affairs (OECA), Student Office of Sustainability, Pitt EcoReps, Pitt Surplus, Pitt Pantry and the Pitt Police. Donation locations were available on and off campus, thanks to a partnership with the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation.

This year’s event took place April 27-30 and gathered thousands of pounds of clutter, including:

  • More than 7,000 pounds of materials including kitchen items, room essentials and small electronics
  • More than 945 pounds of textiles that have been donated to Thriftsburgh, the University’s on-campus thrift store
  • 2,300 pounds of food, since donated to Pitt Pantry and Community Human Services

Clutter for a Cause has grown each year, both in terms of student awareness and diversion, and even more donations from this year have yet to be weighed, Ninos said.

Most items will be cleaned and resold through Thriftsburgh’s Reuse Rummage Sale in August. This will give first-year students and community residents the opportunity to purchase potentially costly items and appliances at affordable prices, she said.

“While the on-campus Clutter for a Cause campaign is focused on diversion and meeting students’ basic needs through Thriftsburgh’s Reuse Rummage Sale — like being able to purchase quality donated items such as a mini fridge for $20 or less — the off-campus program is all about community outreach and stewardship of our relationship with our Pittsburgh neighbors,” Ninos said.

Jamie Ducar, executive director of the engaged campus for OECA, said Clutter for a Cause is an impactful program that shows Pitt’s commitment to helping its neighbors.

“It’s all about the University being the best neighbor it can possibly be,” Ducar said. “Clutter for a Cause provides a unique opportunity for the Pitt community to support sustainability goals while also providing affordable common household items for current and future Oakland residents, as well as nonprofit partners. I’m grateful to Erika and the Student Office of Sustainability for their continued stewardship and growth of this effort.”

Visit the Office of Engagement and Community Affairs to get involved or learn more about programs throughout the region.


— Donovan Harrell