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Mother Knows Best
By Suki Casanave '86G

Indira "Dee" Henley '05 knows a thing or two about recycling. As the mother of five children, she's overseen years of hand-me-down clothes, shared toys and frugal shopping. She also has an instinctive dislike for waste and a deep commitment, instilled by her parents, to helping others.

It was the piles, she admits, that actually inspired her to start her campus-wide, end-of-semester recycling program. A few years ago, when Henley and her family were relocating to the Seacoast, she drove through Durham in the spring as students were moving out. Piles and piles of things were being thrown away, things that still had a useful life—clothing, food, furniture and more. Henley couldn't bear the sight of all that waste. So she decided to do something about it.

Before long, Henley was pitching the idea of RENU (Recycling Everything New/Used) to Kate Hanson, her advisor in the Thompson School's Community Service Leadership program. She was also recruiting and organizing others—UNH employees as well as students and local residents. The project—a massive recycling effort—would not only convert piles of trash into piles with a purpose but would also fulfill her internship requirement.

"The students have so many things to think about at the end of the semester," Henley says. "They're trying to get through exams, get things packed. It's a matter of making it accessible and giving them a sense of direction." What this meant, Henley figured out, is boxes. For two weeks before graduation, two large boxes for food and clothing are stationed in the lobby of every residence hall on campus. Every couple of days, the boxes are emptied by Facilities Services. Henley—like a good mother who doesn't want to hear any excuses—is making it so easy to recycle, there's no reason to throw things out that are still worth using.

In the past two years, Henley and dozens of volunteers have collected more than 350 large trash bags of clothing. The team also collected more than two tons of food. "We started an inventory," says Henley, chuckling. "I bet you never knew there are 17 different flavors of Ramen noodles." Each year, after two weeks of collecting, volunteers spend hours sorting donations and then distributing the goods to local charitable organizations and food banks.

Henley is thrilled by the students' response. "They tell me, 'Hey, this is great. I didn't know we could do this.' It makes them feel better to not be throwing things away," she says. She's also pleased with the success of the program and grateful to everyone who's pitched in. "I feel 100 percent good about it," she says. Spoken like a proud mother.

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