Clean Break
UNIVERSITY Brown University
TAGS donation program | reuse | diversion
CONTACT Leah Haykin <>


Clean Break is a massive collection effort that allows departing Brown students to donate items that they would otherwise leave behind to Rhode Islanders in need. Every year in May, the Brown EcoReps and Facilities Management team up to collect about 16 tons of donated items.


The impact of this event for both the environment and the community is great, as these perfectly useful items would otherwise be dumped directly into Rhode Island’s Central Landfill. Instead, Clean Break facilitates the donation of clothing, electronics, toiletries, fridges, furniture, and non-perishable food to local organizations such as the Rhode Island donation exchange, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Goodwill. Over its 24 years of operation, Clean Break has diverted the weight equivalent of over 50 African elephants. Because the process of donating items through Clean Break is easy and convenient, many Brown students participate. This event is highly educational, as it gets those who normally don’t to think about reducing, reusing, and recycling.


To prepare for the event, the Brown EcoReps work in conjunction with Facilities Management to install collection toters in every residence hall. Throughout the month of May, students can drop off their items in the toters. Signage is also put up to instruct what not put in toters—essentially, garbage. During Commencement, EcoReps separate useful items from garbage, and take these items to centralized locations where Goodwill Industries collection bins are stationed.


In the future, Clean Break organizers should start outreach sooner. They should also advertise to a wide audience by working in conjunction with Residential Life and RAs. It would also be helpful to have smaller Clean Breaks throughout the year, to reduce the demand on volunteers and Facilities employees at the end of the academic year.