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Old Furniture Finds New Home in Haiti

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
September 5, 2007

They might not know it but UNH students who would have been living in the Sackett and Woodruff mini-dorms or in Fairchild Hall on Main Street have a connection with Haiti.

Sackett and Woodruff were torn down to make way for the southeast residential community off McDaniel Drive. Fairchild is undergoing major renovations. The old furniture from the three residence halls has been collected by the Institution Recycling Network (IRN) in Concord and sent to Haiti, where it will be reused in classrooms, orphanages, and even individual residences.

The IRN works with colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, public and private schools and school districts to find new uses for everything from surplus furniture to old computers to fluorescent floor lamps. Last winter, representatives of the group stopped by UNH’s Facilities Design and Construction office to introduce themselves and explain their service.

When the time came to dispose of the bureaus, desks and bed frames that were being removed from the three residence halls, Stephen Luber, manager of Housing Facilities and Operations, suggested using IRN to find another home for the furniture that, otherwise, would have been thrown out.

“The majority of this furniture, although well-used and even somewhat abused, remained relatively serviceable but, frankly, not enough so for re-use in a new UNH dorm,” says Rich Rouleau, project manager for Facilities Design.

It was originally thought that this furniture would be demolished and disposed of as part of the building demolition. Instead, five 8-foot by 8-foot by 40-foot shipping containers filled with 900 pieces of furniture (wood bureaus, desks, dressers, bed frames and mattresses) and weighing more than 43 tons was set to Haiti’s Community Center refurbishment project in Port-Au-Prince.

“Finding another useful purpose for the residence hall furniture is serving us all in a more productive and positive manner than if it had ended up in one of our local landfills,” says Luber.

The recycling effort cost UNH just under $20,000, which was paid out of the construction project budgets. This works out to about 23 cents per pound, which is only marginally more than it would have cost to send it to a landfill.

“UNH does a good job with its program (UNH RENU - Recycling Everything New and Used) that recycles things left in dorms at the end of the year and this is a nice complement to that,” says Mark Lennon of IRN. “Schools and universities aren’t really set up to recycle a whole lot of furniture. These are the kinds of connections we are able to make.”

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