Students buy into sustainability at the big sale


Juliet DeRienzo

One hundred volunteers, mainly Appalachian students, were on site for The Big Sale last Saturday. Bethany Kinsey, an incoming freshman, was one of the first in line.

“I didn’t know about this until Thursday, and before that I had already went out and bought basically everything I needed for my room,” Kinsey said. “I’m never buying stuff before this ever again.”

By 8 a.m. a crowd had gathered outside of Legends, waiting to be let inside. When the doors opened shoppers scattered in search of food, clothes, toiletries and furniture.

Kate Johnson, associate director of community service student programs, said that 350 individuals volunteered a combined total of 1,000 hours to help set up for the sale.

“We save about 70 tons of material from the landfill every year,” Johnson said.

Most of the goods sold are collected from dorms and dumpsters towards the end of each school year.

Jenny Koehn, associate director of student programs, said over the past 10 years the proceeds have gone towards increasing the energy efficiency of local charities. Students also gain an awareness of how wasteful a college campus can be.

“Just as much stuff comes out of the dumpster as it does actual donations,” Koehn said.

Koehn said she has been a part of The Big Sale since it began in 2001. She said Natalie Knight, a former student, noticed how many items from dorm halls were being thrown away. Knight collected all the items and donated them to the Oasis Domestic Violence Shelter.

Before she graduated, Knight brought her idea to Koehn in the Appalachian and the Community Together office. As a result, The Big Sale was born.

When The Big Sale first began, it would raise around $2,100-$2,300 annually. Now, with the increase of popularity and volunteers, the sale earns $19,000-$20,000 a year.

The Big Sale’s proceeds provided mini-grants for increasing energy efficiency to the Watauga Humane Society, Ashe County Sharing Center and Casting Bread Food Pantry. Funds raised also go towards a scholarship for Appalachian students called Leigh Lane Edwards Scholarship for International Service-Learning.

“We offer affordable clothes and goods to the community and to students as well. And whatever we don’t sell we donate back to the community,” Johnson said.

Story by Juliet DeRienzo