Have you ever wondered where the fridges of the graduating seniors go after commencement? Have you thought about buying a second-hand fridge?
Green Garage is a student-run social entrepreneurship initiative at Amherst College. With funding support from an Amherst alumnus, contribution from each of the members on the team and support from the Social Innovation Leadership Team (SILT), the Green Garage was founded in February 2013 with a dual focus on both business success and generating social impact by reducing waste on campus. We operate a business of buying used furniture and electronic appliances from graduating seniors, storing them during the summer and selling them to new and returning students in the fall.
Graduating seniors face problems disposing of their bulky durables after graduation. Immediately after the graduation ceremony, seniors have to move out of their dormitories with their baggage. Throwing away items such as fridges and couches creates unnecessary environmental and economic waste. Furthermore, the Amherst College Facilities Department has to clear the items on behalf of the seniors, thereby creating unnecessary inconvenience for the College annually.
At the same time, incoming first-years purchase second-hand appliances such as fridges through Amazon or Craigslist before they start their College semester. However, the prices of such appliances on these online portals are high and Craigslist transactions might be inconvenient for freshmen without a car.
Furthermore, transportation of fridges from the post office to the dormitories has also proven to be a huge inconvenience to the students. Thus, the new students lack an approachable, accessible and affordable option. There exists an immediate need for a social entrepreneurial start-up to purchase quality second-hand durables from graduating seniors while providing an alternative channel for incoming first-years to buy such appliances.
Last year, we started Green Garage in an effort to reduce environmental wastage on campus while providing students with durable second-hand appliances at a lower rate. With support from SILT, we organized a Senior Sale during finals week in May for seniors to sell their used appliances to the general student population. Our start-up received strong support from the Class of 2013 as many had registered with us to sell their fridges, TVs, bicycles and lamps even before the end of finals.
Experimenting with our business idea for the first year, Green Garage went around the dormitories across the campus to purchase fridges from graduating seniors before they moved out of their dormitories. After a few days of hard work carrying and transporting fridges, we collected 50 fridges from the Class of 2013. We cleaned and maintained the fridges during the summer to ensure that they remained of good quality.
In the fall, we generated a campus-wide publicity campaign for students to learn more about our social entrepreneurship and purchase fridges from us. Throughout the first week of fall semester, we received enough requests to purchase fridges such that the demand exceeded our supply. In the end, we managed to sell all of them to current students on campus. In appreciation of the support from the student population, we delivered the fridges personally to their dormitories. Furthermore, we also offered free exchange or refund for any dysfunctional fridges. We managed to make a decent profit from our hard work and, at the same time, received positive feedback from the students, which shows that students’ problems on campus can be solved with a business approach.
In addition to creating a successful enterprise, Green Garage also intends to foster the spirit of social entrepreneurism on campus. We are sponsoring the annual Business Idea Pitch Competition in April this year with a portion of our profits and hope to encourage more students to come forward with sustainable business ideas. Furthermore, we hope to attract potential business collaborators who are interested in sharing business ideas and solutions with us.
This coming May, the Green Garage hopes to sustain its business success and social impact by purchasing fridges from the general student population, particularly from the graduating Class of 2014. We intend to expand the range of appliances we purchase to further reduce wastage on campus. With continuing support from SILT, the Green Garage would like to benefit more graduating seniors and incoming freshmen in the upcoming years ahead. We hope, with our new initiative, that we can highlight the importance of environmental friendliness and social entrepreneurship on campus.