06 Mar 2020

Giving Back and Diverting Waste – Donations at HBS


As 2020 gets underway, HBS Operations is taking some time to reflect on one of the important ways that the school gives back to the community: donations. Donations at HBS take many forms. When renovating a new building, Operations looks for new homes for furniture and appliances; Human Resources (HR), Sustainability, HBS Connects, and Baker Library run drives to collect goods for local charities; and Restaurant Associates collects leftover food to donate to the local community.

These are important efforts to share with the wider community; below is a recap of select major initiatives from 2019.

Donations from Campus Renovations

Wherever possible, HBS Operations donates furniture and supplies from construction projects across campus. That process begins with Operations contacting Rob Gogan, Associate Manager, Recycling & Waste Services at Harvard Surplus Distribution with details on what will be available, and when. Gogan, who has established relationships with more than 200 non-profit organizations in the 30 years he’s been at Harvard, matches those organizations with the available items and coordinates the resulting deliveries and pickups. The ideal organizations, Gogan explained, are those that combine punctual pickups with a good track record of getting the items to those in need. Donated items from across Harvard that are not matched with an organization are available to the public and local nonprofits twice a week at the Surplus Distribution warehouse.

Most recently, the Spangler dining hall renovations provided a substantial surplus of furniture for local organizations. Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts received approximately 50 café tables and 100 dining chairs. According to the organization’s director, Sharon Martens, the tables were particularly welcome as the smaller size is ideal for clients transitioning out of homelessness, yet are hard to find. Breaktime Café, founded by Harvard undergraduates to provide job training and employment to homeless youth, has selected a dozen upholstered chairs and couches for their new facility near North Station. Perkins School for the Blind received three millwork credenzas, eight tables, and 30 chairs. At least 25 pieces of lounge furniture also went to Harvard Undergraduate Housing.

Renovations to the Shad Fitness Center included donations of flooring and exercise equipment. The Pingree School in South Hamilton received over 1,000 square feet of rubber fitness flooring for their gymnasium, and fitness equipment went to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the Perkins School.

Even minor renovations result in donations. Furniture from Baker Library recently went to the Harvard Surplus Distribution Center, and a number of classroom chairs went to student dorms at the Perkins School and Harvard undergraduate housing.

Drives for Local Non-Profits

The HBS Sustainability team puts on two major annual drives, for clothing and cosmetics, to collect goods for those in need. After the community “clothing shop,” this past year’s drive yielded 345 pounds of clothing for donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters. The cosmetics drive, done in partnership with Harvard Surplus Distribution each February, collects toiletries and makeup for Rosie’s Place, the first women’s shelter founded in the US. In 2019 HBS donated 450 pounds of cosmetics, more than any other Harvard school. In addition to giving back to the local community, both of these events helped to divert unnecessary waste from our landfills.

HR runs annual drives for Cradles to Crayons, Year Up, and Toys for Tots. Cradles to Crayons provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with clothing and items for both home and school. Winter coats are collected and donated to Year Up, a non-profit working to close the opportunity gap for young adults. Each holiday season, the Toys for Tots donation drive distributes new, unwrapped toys to children in need.

HBS Connects and Baker Library also launched a book swap cart this summer, and have donated more than 100 books to the Harvard Surplus Distribution Center. Lastly, HBS donated 36 abandoned bicycles to Harvard Commuter Choice, which stores the bikes and donates those unclaimed after 90 days to community bike groups including CommonWheels and Bikes not Bombs.

Providing Meals and Minimizing Food Waste

HBS partners with Food for Free to utilize leftover food from our dining establishments. Food for Free, a Cambridge based non-profit that improves access to food in the Boston area, brings food that would otherwise go to waste to underserved populations such as shelters and schools. In the past year, HBS has donated approximately 3,200 pounds of food to Food for Free, including over 100 pies this past Thanksgiving. Most recently, HBS has begun donating food from the hot bar, which Food for Free separates into frozen meals for people in transitional living facilities who have access to a microwave.

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