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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Donation sites close — the internet is open

Facebook group adapts and overcomes to continue buying, selling, trading

By Macy Adkinson

As spring cleaning hits, the Bellingham Buy/Sell/Trade page has been teeming with sales as COVID-19 puts in-person donation centers on hold. 

Stores like the local Goodwill and Value Village are temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, halting in-person donations. 

Seattle Goodwill put a statement on its website about the Bellingham location, asking the community to hold on to items they would like to donate. 

“Please do not leave items at donation centers,” Goodwill’s website states. “We are not able to pick up dumped items, and unattended goods become unsafe and unusable.” 

Northwest Center no-contact Big Blue Bins are available for clothing and household item donations that go to local children and adults with disabilities. Though there’s still the question of larger items, like furniture and whole apartments.

Many people are turning to the internet to sell. The buy/sell/trade page has had an influx of new posts since the beginning of March.

Front porch pick-ups are becoming more common as people continue to sell their items on the WWU and Bellingham Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook page. // Photo illustration by Macy Adkinson.

Western students are posting to sublet their rooms on buy/sell/trade pages, like fifth-year Western student Serena Southwick.

“My only issue right now is the fact that more people are trying to find someone to take over their leases to move out of Bellingham, rather than into Bellingham,” Southwick said. 

Southwick was set to graduate in June, but after the spring quarter went online, she had no reason to stay in Bellingham. She looked to the Facebook page as an accessible way to post about her apartment.

Doug Robinson said he uses the Facebook group to sell upcycled garden art planters that he makes from reused materials. For each $135 sale, Robinson donates $25 to the Bellingham Food Bank. 

“I know that the food bank is struggling to meet the needs of people with businesses shut down and that people might like to do some small gardening,” Robinson said. “I thought I could sell these and raise some money to donate to a place in need.”

Most of the items for sale are secondhand or, like Robinson’s, are upcycled by people who are trying to reduce waste as an environmental principle.

“I think the Facebook site helps with reusing things as opposed to buying new,” Robinson said. “In my case, the art pieces are made from reclaimed materials from many sources including the ReStore and thrift stores.”

Not everyone is turning to the internet to post their spring cleanings.

“Speaking as a student, there are lots of students who don’t want to pay to throw their furniture away at the dump, so they leave it on the side of the road,” said fourth-year Western student, Emma Capps Gibson. “Sometimes it’s in good condition so others can take it, but I’ve seen a lot of trashed furniture just left on the streets, too.”

Zero Waste Western is currently planning Move Out Madness, Bellingham’s city wide swap for donated items students no longer need as they move. They’re working daily with Western’s Off Campus Living Office, Community Relations and Western’s COVID Response team to adapt the event to fit the current situation. 

“While we are still in this planning process, we have been compiling online resources for the last couple of weeks which we are close to sending out to students,” said Zero Waste Western coordinator, Lauren Sanner. “This will include where and what you can donate, where that is appropriate, as well as other move out resources.”

Zero Waste Western promotes sustainability and health by encouraging others to keep and continue to use their items. 

“Students should research how long to hold items in solitude before offering them to Facebook Marketplace or buy/sell/trade groups,” Sanner said. “The best option would be keep your items and use them for as long as possible.”

Before dumping, check the local Facebook groups to see if the item could find another home.

Here is a map of donation centers in Bellingham that will be readily awaiting community support after the restrictions are lifted: 


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