As the semester came to an end, I decided to join the couch-(and other treasures)-saving crew, otherwise known as Clean Sweep. Clean Sweep is an initiative through Pomona College’s Sustainability Integration Office to reuse, reduce, and recycle students’ waste and divert it from the landfill. Not only that, but we help the housekeeping staff by making sure that when they have to go into the rooms and clean, the rooms will be free of large furniture, appliances, objects, etc.
I participated in Clean Sweep last summer and I found it to be a very rewarding experience. It was also an easy way to make new friends and earn some cash. Another plus is that if you find something cool, you can keep it! Thus, in many ways, we were all treasure hunting!
During our breaks, we discussed with one another the amazing treasures we find — or how tiring it is to clean. I’ve got to give props to the Housekeeping staff for all the hard work they do on a daily basis so that our experience at Pomona is clean, healthy, and livable. Many of us complained about the manual labor or having to work under the sun without realizing that some people do this for a living — and they cannot complain, because this is what keeps bread on the table, clothes on the kids, and a roof over their heads. Hence, Clean Sweep is also a check on our privilege as students pursuing higher education in the US.
You would be surprised at the stuff students leave behind at Pomona. From computers to plasma TVs, refrigerators to lamps, phones to clothes, comforters to mattress pads, even an unopened Birthday Card stashed with $50 (crazy, right?). Seeing all of this from a low-income perspective, it amazes me that some students have so much money that they are willing to throw away so much (valuable) stuff. And not all of it’s old and raggedy — there’s also a lot of new and barely-used stuff.
Unfortunately, there are some setbacks that one experiences while working for Clean Sweep. For one, you will find a lot of great and useful things BUT you will also find some really disgusting things, which I decline from mentioning in this post. You will also see that while many students leave their room nice and clean, there are just as many others that leave it dirty, stinky, and unprepared for housekeeping to go into.
Collectively, we determine the objects that can be reused, but also those that we want to reuse (usually stuff that students are willing to buy in the ReCoop Sale and ultimately stuff that will reduce the amount of energy consumption on campus). Mini fridges are one prominent example — a lot of them are not Energy Star certified, so we try to collect the ones that are eco-friendly and re-sell them the next year. This helps us make Pomona an even greener campus, making Energy Star certified appliances and fridges more affordable and accessible on campus.
Besides digging for treasures and making Pomona an even greener campus, one of the things that I have really enjoyed about Clean Sweep is the ability to make new friends. There is an interesting crowd of students joining the team. Many students join because of the positive environmental impact the work has on the campus, others join for the treasures, and others join because they simply need some money. Whatever the reason, we are all prepared to work hard, lift some heavy furniture, and clean.