Dec. 13, 2023

Looking back at 2023: UCalgary residence Eco Move-out takes a gigantic bite out of waste

Nearly 11 tonnes of items donated serve as a reminder to rethink waste generation by making eco-friendly decisions this holiday season
Eco Moveout

Last spring's UCalgary Residence Services' Eco Move-out provided students a new option for dealing with waste.

Amanda Tran

The holidays can be a wasteful period between gift purchases, end-of-year pressures and last-minute moves. A project earlier this year focused on tackling the issue of waste at the University of Calgary and offers food for thought about sustainability at home.

Knowing that waste diversion is a key priority, UCalgary's Residence Services relaunched the Eco Move-out program last spring, targeting recurring sustainability challenges faced by students during the end-of-term move-out process.

Two people stand smiling at the camera holding boxes labelled 'Calgary Food Bank'

Engaging campus resources for success

The Eco Move-out started as a student-led effort and grew to a wider residence education initiative in 2016, with over 400 students benefitting from the "free store" in the years up to the pandemic.  

After a pause due to COVID-19, Derek Kogstad, manager of housekeeping with Residence Services, reached out to the Office of Sustainability’s Campus as a Learning Lab (CLL) initiative to see how Residences could leverage student knowledge, his team’s expertise and student volunteers for the Eco Move-out relaunch.  

"Seeking out support from students to explore these opportunities through hands-on learning within our day-to-day operations is a way to bring those incredible initiatives to fruition,” says Brittanie Walker-Reid, director of Residence Services.  

CLL connects and supports students, faculty and operational staff on student-led applied research and experiential learning projects that advance sustainability on campus. It pitched the Eco Move-out campaign plan to MBA students Min Seong Park, BComm'19;  Nicole Swanson, BComm'12; and Danial Kazmi, BComm'18, who were tasked with developing a strategy to ensure its success as part of Haskayne’s MGST 615 course. Aside from providing logistics solutions for internal and external partners and budgeting, they also created a handbook to ensure continued success of the Eco Move-out in future years.

"We were all really passionate about this project, and, honestly, from all three of our perspectives, I think that we’re really glad that we did," says Kazmi. "Working with the entire (Residences) team, we got to work closely and manage expectations, deliverables and communications in order to ensure that everyone was on the same page. I think that’s a big benefit of going from the classroom to actually practising in real life."

Park adds that having some of the organizers actually living in residence let them see the impact first-hand. "Normally, in the Haskayne School of Business, when we take on a project, you don’t see the results right away, but this time we can directly see our hard work be implemented and carried through," says Park.

T-Rex-sized impact

The Office of Sustainability mobilized 50 enthusiastic student volunteers who committed more than 500 hours to support the Eco Move-out. The goal was to make the process simple and stress-free for students while aligning with UCalgary’s sustainability goals, as outlined in the Institutional Sustainability Strategy. Donation bins were strategically placed, encouraging students to responsibly dispose of unwanted items, ranging from clothing to kitchen tools.

The project achieved remarkable results, diverting 10.89 tonnes of waste from the landfill, equivalent to the weight of an adult T-Rex.

Free Store a success

As part of the Residences move-in period within Orientation Week, the sorted household, kitchen, cleaning and school supplies were distributed to incoming student residents during the Free Store event on Aug. 30, with more than 300 new residents picking up the donated items collected during the move-out.

Interested in volunteering or taking on your own projects with the Office of Sustainability? Sign up as a Sustainability Ambassador or sign up for the Sustainability Leadership Innovation Program (SLIP). Want to start something that advances sustainability on campus? Get started by submitting your idea to Campus as a Learning Lab or email the Office of Sustainability at