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Sitting on a Second Chance: Program Gives New Life to Campus Furniture

Aligning with AU's sustainability goals, Facilities Management has launched a formal initiative to recycle surplus furniture to new homes across campus.

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AU's surplus furniture program has upcycled more than 200 items.

A growing AU program has given new life to scores of campus furniture, helping the university further its sustainability goals since its launch.

AU’s surplus furniture program, which is organized by Facilities Management, moved pieces of furniture that had amassed in small clusters around campus into a small warehouse until new space could be found, said recycling specialist Joseph Boudah, SIS/BA ’19. More than 200 pieces of furniture were then recycled to office spaces across AU, decreasing waste and affirming the department’s commitment to sustainability.

“Facilities Management saw the potential in this program and increased their support by providing a central storage location and an improved webpage, which led to even greater success and engagement,” said Boudah, who oversees the program and has watched it grow exponentially over the past three years.

While the program existed before her arrival, AU CFO, Vice President and Treasurer Bronté Burleigh-Jones, Kogod/BSBA ’91, MBA ’93, designated the surplus furniture program as a formal initiative in July 2022, which brought more rigor to the process and spurred its growth. The renewed program launched in November.

The surplus furniture program primarily distributes furniture to campus buildings and offices, but the initiative also donates to local nonprofits, underscoring AU’s commitment to working with Washington. 

In March, Facilities Management provided several furniture items to Jack and Jill of America’s Montgomery County Chapter, a local nonprofit supporting future generations of young African American leaders by offering leadership development opportunities, community service, and philanthropic giving.

“When this organization reached out to us, I knew that we had to do everything we could to assist them,” Boudah said. “While the organization’s goals closely align with the university's goals, I also saw an avenue to support a great organization and push ourselves to be even more sustainable.”

In addition to serving the AU community and local non-profits, the surplus furniture program is critical to AU’s sustainability goals. Under the zero waste section of AU’s 2021 Sustainability Plan, implementing the system is listed as an essential step toward AU’s goal of being a zero waste campus by 2030.

The surplus program has also significantly impacted AU’s waste management program by increasing the lifespan of furniture. The initiative has saved over 265 items—totaling 5.57 tons—from being thrown out since July 2022 and saved the university $69,252 in furniture purchases.

Items are available to staff and faculty looking for new furnishings for their building or office. The program’s webpage can be found under the “Services” section of the myAU portal. Items can be donated using the donation form.