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  • Lucy

Knife for a knife, spoon for a spoon

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

Have you ever wondered how exchange students arriving in Amsterdam furnish their apartments during their short-term stays?

Unfortunately, the answer is anything but sustainable. Due to the increased availability of cheap, low-quality home furnishings in stores and a growing single-use culture amongst students, incoming residents simply buy the cheapest versions of everything they need for six months to kit out their kitchen and then dump it all on move-out day.

The Problem

Green Office member Hazel Cranmer first noticed the problem when she herself moved to Amsterdam as an exchange student, saying “when I moved here in August it was the first time I had to buy a kitchen’s worth of brand new equipment! In the past, I've relied on charity shops for second-hand stuff or utensils left behind by previous residents in student flats! It was a big surprise cost of moving to study here”.

Trash outside of an Amsterdam student residence on moving day

Not only did the personal cost and inefficiency frustrate her, but she was shocked when she realized the negative impact the buying culture was having on the environment - recalling that “in December when a big portion of exchange students left, I saw people dumping their 4-month-old equipment in the rubbish tips! Or otherwise paying to have it all transported thousands of miles home!”. Luckily, having joined the Green Office as part of her exchange in Amsterdam, Hazel wanted to take action. After talking about the problem with the Green Office Community team (one of our four branches), they decided it was important to help end this wasteful cycle by setting up a system to redistribute second-hand equipment.

The Solution!

After a quick planning meeting just days into the new year, the Green Office organized some open office hours where students finishing their time in Amsterdam could donate their kitchen stuff (pots, pans, cutlery, colanders - you name it!) to be passed on to the next round of exchange students. Hazel also advertised a drop-off point in her student accommodation which proved the most popular for donations.

The solution: Redistributing kitchen stuff to new exchange students

After only a couple of days of promotion via social media, the initiative received a wave of positive responses and cries were heard from many students who had been as upset as Hazel when they saw how many kitchen items were thrown on the street during the move-out day. There were over 100 items donated at Hazel’s residence, and two large bags’ worth collected at the Green Office.

After two collection days, the redistribution happened on Thursday 30th January as a new wave of exchange students landed. The Green Office set up a collection point in the reception of one accommodation used exclusively for short term exchange students, and nearly every kitchen item was re-homed within 2 hours!

Among plain pots, pans and bowls, Hazel’s favorite item donated was a personalized mug which says ‘thank you for looking after my cat’. She also ended up fostering some very good looking cacti because a student didn’t know what to do with their house plants when leaving Amsterdam.

Regarding future plans, Hazel says “I hope we can repeat this initiative again - we had a great response from both old and new exchange students”. There are also thoughts to streamline the process in future semesters, and the next steps will involve arranging collection and distribution arrangements based on all the student accommodations and work with housing providers to make the action even more effective. Promotion can start earlier, collection dates extended, and swapping might even span beyond kitchen goods to bedroom and lounge things, too. With inspiring positivity, Hazel wants us to all imagine how many items will be swapped then!

This Green Office initiative is one of many that we’re rolling out in 2020. If you’d like to know more, get involved, or share your ideas, follow us on Instagram @uvagreenoffice and visit our Facebook page UvA Green Office for all the latest events.

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