The More Sustainable Way to Get Rid of Surplus Office Items at Drexel

One of the cubicles sold and removed from the Rush Building. Photo courtesy Bo Solomon.
One of the cubicles sold and removed from the Rush Building. Photo courtesy Bo Solomon

Earlier this year, when Jennifer Tifone needed to remove two sets of cubicles from the third floor of the Rush Building, the director of finance and administration in Student Life knew who to contact to have those cubicles picked up and sold at auction at no extra cost to her office — and with her office then receiving most of the revenue from that sale.

Since 2014, Drexel Surplus has functioned as a service available to all Drexel offices and departments — with no up-front cost — as a sustainable and low-maintenance way to remove items like office furniture and supplies, as well as equipment from laboratory settings, in a better, greener way than simply throwing them out.

When contacted, Drexel Surplus, led by University Sustainability Officer Bo Solomon, arranges for the items to be picked up — in-house, at no extra cost and without having to pay for an outside moving company — and sold via Gov Deals, a government auction website for non-profits (kind of like eBay). When those items are sold, the office from which they came receives a portion of the sale (Drexel Surplus takes 10% for maintenance costs). And the items go to a new home, rather than a landfill.

“Items” is vague, but please note that Drexel Surplus really can take, well, almost anything. This includes office supplies and furniture, but also everything from a mannequin head to surgical lights to HVAC equipment (for what’s currently available for auction now). In the past, Solomon has used Gov Deals to sell a wide array of items owned by the University: a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid, microscopes, computers, printers, tables, chairs, bookcases and filing cabinets, for example.

“Surplus is a large part of keeping things out of landfill and people don't really know about it,” said Solomon.

The new, cubicle-free space in the SORC. Photo courtesy Bo Solomon.

Those cubicles from the Rush Building? It would have cost Tifone $5,500 to remove them through an external moving company. Instead, Drexel Surplus removed them, took care of selling them (Solomon sold them for $422.14) and moved them into their new homes (one of the buyers was a Drexel alumnus using them for a recording studio for his son).

The removal of the cubicles was “critical to the overall function” of the Student Organization Resource Center (SORC), Tifone said, which moved into the Rush Building from the basement of the Creese Student Center along with the Dean of Students office, which had been in Ross Commons. The removal of the cubicles led to more open space in the room.

This wasn’t the first time Tifone used Drexel Surplus; when Student Life first moved to the Rush Building (after it was vacated by the College of Computing & Informatics), Solomon sold over 30 file cabinets and other additional furniture left behind that wasn’t needed. That’s why, for Tifone, the reason for wanting to go through Drexel Surplus for this service was twofold.

“As most units know, finances are always a balancing act,” she said. “So the idea of spending $5,500 to remove these cubicals was a strain on an already tight budget. The second was that these were nice cubicles, and the idea that these would be removed and essentially be thrown into a landfill or parts of them would be recycled didn't sit well with me. While they didn't work for my space, they could be useful to others. I liked the idea that these items could get a second life somewhere else.”

It’s a good time, Solomon said, for faculty and professional staff to be thoughtful about how they would remove items from their office. In November, Solomon was named University Sustainability Officer. Along with other students, faculty and professional staff, he has been part of the Climate and Sustainability Working Group overseeing and implementing various University-wide and multi-pronged climate and sustainability initiatives to be implemented throughout Drexel’s academic mission, institutional operations and public engagement. That group also worked to declare 2021 as “Climate Year,” a yearlong effort to launch the climate emergency into a priority issue for Drexel’s teaching, research and operations. Plus, with the COVID-19 pandemic, offices are redesigning, or thinking about redesigning, their use of space on campus — and Drexel Surplus is here to help.

“A lot of people think of sustainability as recycling and what I do, like keeping things out of landfill,” said Solomon. “But a lot of it is environmental justice, research and teaching. That’s why it’s a great thing to kind of tie together what Drexel has been doing, especially now with Climate Year and the working group, because there are a lot of people doing stuff and a lot of people are interested in sustainable efforts at Drexel.”