Harvesting Housing Materials Through Drexel University Surplus

Climate & Sustainability Executive Director Bo Solomon explains where furniture from the now-offline Myers Hall has gone.
Discarded furniture from Myers Hall

Furniture from Myers Hall was repurposed for apartments at the College of Medicine in West Reading.

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Drexel University reduced the usage of Myers Hall, saw that some things could be reused and called Drexel Surplus to help them recycle.

Surplus, led by Climate & Sustainability Executive Director Bo Solomon, helped rehome some of the furniture from Myers Hall, a residence hall that is being demolished after serving as a home for Drexel students for more than five decades. The hall went offline in 2022, but is scheduled to be demolished in 2023. The obsolete pieces, including debris and miscellaneous items from Myers Hall, would usually have been carted off to landfills, but thanks to a few departments at Drexel, much was redirected.

“I'd much rather give it away for free to someone to reuse it for something, like a church group or nonprofit, than have it thrown away,” Solomon said.

Business Services and Real Estate and Facilities led the efforts to recycle the usable furniture from Myers Hall. Planning, Design and Construction inventoried the contents of Myers Hall and some — 1,546 pieces, or 107,643 pounds — went to the Institutional Recycling Network (IRN) to be distributed to IRN’s nonprofit partners. In addition, eight bed sets and mattresses, two lounge couches and four lounge chairs went to furnish apartments for College of Medicine students in West Reading. Real Estate and Facilities and Business Services both played key roles in this sustainable transaction.

Outside of the Myers Hall project, Solomon tries to resell surplus on campus. General furniture is easiest to rehome as opposed to office furnishings like filing cabinets and desks, which people have less and less reason to use as work styles change in the wake of the pandemic, Solomon said. He’s been working on sustainability at Drexel for about three of his eight years at the University.

“I came from the University of Missouri, where we had a surplus program where they had a warehouse and the sales paid for everything,” Solomon said. “I came here to do a virtual version of what Missouri was doing.”

In the beginning, he sold scrap vehicles, cubicles, desks and other detritus, but about three years ago, Solomon joined a group of Drexel staff who were forming a new climate and sustainability working group.

“Jen Britton [Executive Director of Sustainable Development Strategy in Procurement ] and myself are doing what that office would be doing, so we started doing it as the Climate and Sustainability working group,” Solomon said.

Now, Solomon and Britton, situated in Procurement Services and Accounts Payable, foster the university’s climate and sustainability efforts by partnering with internal offices and divisions on sustainability-focused problem solving and programming. They are also working on linking with their colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University to multiply the impact.

There are ways for everyone in the Drexel community to connect with the working group’s climate and sustainability efforts. Students can join organizations like the Drexel Sierra Club or the sustainability committee of the Undergraduate Student Association. Faculty whose research is related or aligned with climate and sustainability can get involved with research centers like the Urban Climate Change Research Network’s North American Hub, and professional staff can identify more sustainable approaches to the work they do on campus and use volunteer hours to work with organizations focused on climate change. The Lindy Center for Civic Engagement has resources and opportunities for professional staff to get involved with organizations like the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development, or you can find environment-specific volunteering opportunities around Philadelphia to help with organizations like Keep Philadelphia Beautiful.