Toward the end of the 1995 school year, Lisa Heller dived into a Dumpster at Syracuse University in Upstate New York. A graduate student, she was searching for a ring she had lost in a dorm room. “I was struck by how much of what was being thrown away wasn’t trash,” she recalls. Among the treasures: canned food, crutches and a box containing a prized 1892 stamp.
She never did find her ring, but Heller, 30, left the Dumpster with a new sense of purpose (and a gift—the stamp—for her father, Rudy, 52, who lives in Brookfield, Mass., and runs a Spanish translation service with Heller’s mother, Sarah, 51). In June she founded Dump & Run Inc., a nonprofit program that collects college students’ throwaways—from clothing to couches to computers—and sells them at charity tag sales. “We all knew there was tons of waste when people moved out,” says Keryn Bromberg, 20, a junior at Boston’s Tufts University who helped with a sale. “We just didn’t know how to fix it.”
Although sales have been held at only two colleges so far (the one at Tufts raised $3,000), Heller plans to expand to 10 schools by spring. Now a speech and debate instructor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, she confesses, “Most of my clothes come from Dump & Run. Somebody will say, ‘I have that same shirt!’ I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I got it for $2.’ ”