Student-run thrift shop creates a less-is-more solution

UNC-Chapel Hill's first student-run thrift shop is creating a better way to reduce the waste that occurs on campus each year while encouraging socially responsible consumerism.

Students pose for a photo in front of the Old Well.

As each spring semester comes to an end, most college students are eager to move on to summer internships, jobs and activities. Packing and moving items collected throughout the year can become a burden as most students would rather leave with less – including appliances, clothing, furniture and even school supplies.

Leaving these items behind, however, can create copious amounts of waste. According to Boston College, the average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year.

One University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student organization is ready to provide a sustainable solution to this challenge: Carolina Thrift. As Carolina’s first student-run thrift shop, Carolina Thrift works to reduce senseless waste that accumulates at the end of each school year, ultimately reducing waste and saving money.

“We saw a need to address the waste generated each year by developing a better system for collection,” said sophomore Carlyann Edwards, the shop’s co-founder and co-director. “As student entrepreneurs, we want to encourage socially responsible consumerism and provide the UNC-Chapel Hill area with financial relief, while building Carolina’s community.”

Although there is a current system in place by Carolina Housing for on-campus collections, nothing exists for students living off campus. The four student founders, Kent Andrews, Carlyann Edwards, Stephen Lapp and Duncan Richey, saw the need for an off-campus collection process and created a sustainable solution – a collection process combined with an annual Carolina Thrift sale.

To get their solution off the ground, they relied on Innovate Carolina’s Dreamers-Who-Do sponsorship, which helps students move their ideas forward and turn novel concepts into concrete solutions. Dreamers-Who-Do sponsorships provide financial support for student projects and programs that help UNC-Chapel Hill students learn what it means to be innovators and entrepreneurs. It gives them opportunities to put their insights into practice.

“We are so excited to be recipients of Innovate Carolina’s Dreamers-Who-Do sponsorship,” Edwards said. “Without it, we would not have been able to take those first steps to create Carolina Thrift.”

A team of 14 Carolina students oversee the organization, with each member bringing a specific area of expertise, including business, collection, event management, marketing, operations and sustainability. Carol Hee, clinical associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, serves as the group’s advisor.

Carolina Thrift’s collection efforts began April 23. Its first annual sale will be held Aug. 18 during Carolina’s Week of Welcome, when freshman arrive for the fall semester.

“Ultimately, we’d like for the annual shopping event to become self-sustaining,” Edwards said. “Eventually, we’d also like to create a sustainability fund for on-campus organizations to explore their own environmental endeavors.”

Carolina Thrift also hopes to eventually develop a partnership with Carolina Housing to combine efforts. It has also discussed the potential efforts of holding more than one sale each year and setting up a permanent thrift shop on campus.

For more information on how to donate, participate in donation collection, attend the annual sale or volunteer, visit the Carolina Thrift website.