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Appalachian’s BIG Sale nets big proceeds for area charities and reduces landfill waste

BOONE—Gently used trash cans, shower caddies, carpet and other items get a second, third and sometimes fourth life through two projects at Appalachian State University designed to reduce landfill waste and help local charities at the same time.

Each spring, the Don’t Throw it Away project collects items students no longer need or don’t want to take home when they leave the university.

Each fall, those items are sold to incoming freshmen, transfer students and returning students who are looking for bargains to help outfit their residence hall room or apartment. The sale also is open to the public.

This year, the BIG Sale as it is known netted $13,500 for area charities, and the Don’t Throw it Away campaign kept approximately 52.5 tons of waste out of the area landfill.

During the program’s nine years, approximately $60,000 has been generated, the majority of which has benefitted community agencies.

Both projects are student-run activities coordinated through Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT), which is the university’s volunteer clearinghouse.

“This event simply would not have been possible without the energy, enthusiasm and muscle of each and every volunteer and supporter who championed this event all spring and summer,” said Kate Johnson, assistant director for community service in the ACT office. “All proceeds will benefit the energy conservation initiatives of Mountain Alliance, Sugar Grove Developmental Day School, The Children’s Playhouse, and The Hunger and Health Coalition; and an international service-learning scholarship for Appalachian students.”

“We always have an assorted collection of crutches, lamps, fans, books, puzzles, cookware and furniture,” Todd Mortensen said of the typical items collected and resold. Mortensen is the ACT associate director of community partnerships. “Some items are purchased and returned each year. We only keep selling what is in decent condition, but we certainly smile when we see the same couch for a fourth year. Now that’s sustainability,” he said.

Holton Mountain Rentals donated furniture to the sale that had been left behind by renters.

Timothy Hefflinger, a sophomore philosophy and sustainable development major from Pennsylvania, chaired this year’s BIG Sale.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities for me to get involved in community service when I was in high school,” Hefflinger said. He is now a member of the impACT Team at Appalachian, the team of ACT student leaders that plans events such as the BIG Sale, the annual dance marathon, MLK Challenge and Earth Day.

“It’s been incredible for me to have this opportunity,” Hefflinger said. “I have been interested in sustainable development for several years. I grew up in an environmentally conscious family, but it took a while for me to understand the human and economic side of sustainable development. The BIG Sale is a great way to pursue the three Es of sustainability: environmental sensitivity, economic viability and social equity. By saving material from the landfills, at least temporarily, and reselling it to the community at bargain prices and donating profits to local non-profit agencies for energy-efficiency projects, we really hit all three aspects of a sustainable enterprise.”

Local organizations or individuals interested in donating gently used items, including furniture, for next year’s sale can call Kate Johnson at 828-262-3032 or e-mail