Cycling, recycling, and sustainable living

Allie Gabalski mans the front desk at the Office of Sustainability. Gabalski is a student employee who emphasizes the need to supply students with readily available, warm clothing.

The Office of Sustainability offers multiple programs for students at UAF. Among these programs include Green Bikes and the FreeStore, which also offers a fun upcycling event every month meant to get students involved with recycling.

Located on the top floor of the Lola Tilly, the FreeStore opened in 2013 and is run by the Office of Sustainability. When walking inside the Lola Tilly Commons, to the right can be found the Office of Sustainability and to the left is the FreeStore. Heaps of clothes cover a couch, the newest items at the FreeStore waiting to be sorted.

Sabina Karwowski, a student employee, coordinates the FreeStore. Every month Karwowski hosts the upcycling craft nights, reusing materials from the FreeStore in a creative manner and transforming it into something fun and useful.

“I try to be inspired by the FreeStore to maybe use its materials to upcycle and do a craft that interests students,” said Karwowski.

From a drawer Karwowski retrieved an example of February’s craft night that was hosted Friday, Feb. 16. She and those participating in the craft night upcycled jeans, cutting them down and piecing the scraps together to make denim oven mitts.

“I’ve got another [craft night] that I want to do with furniture, and I’ve done [a craft night] with actual mittens,” said Karwowski. “I hope to pull more students in. It’s a fun night and we have free food and materials provided for them.”

Rodolfo Garcia, a student at UAF studying Biology and Chemistry, is a regular attendee of the craft nights. Garcia lost count of how many he has attended, though estimated having at least gone to five or six.

“They’re pretty fun. We craft stuff and sometimes we watch movies,” said Garcia. The first craft night he attended, they watched the Bee Movie and made terrariums. “I still have [the terrarium]; they’re nice to look at. How could I pass it up?”

Garcia said sometimes the number of the attendees vary; there could be several people there or just a few.

“The events are enjoyable and more people should go to them,” said Garcia. “I encourages more people to check it out.”

The next craft night will be held March 22 at 7 p.m.

For anyone wanting to donate or take items at the FreeStore, it’s a simple process. Below a dressed mannequin is a notebook. When dropping off items, the Office of Sustainability asks that the number of items dropped off be tallied, and that if any items are taken from the FreeStore, for those items to be tallied also. This helps sustainability keep track of how many people are coming and going as well as how many items filter in and out. According to the Office of Sustainability 814 people came through the FreeStore, 2349 items were taken, while 1957 were donated.

Karwowski encourages more students to use the FreeStore. Before working at Sustainability, Karwowski stated that she regularly used the FreeStore.

“The store has grown four times in size since I [started attending UAF],” said Karwowski. “It’s really cool seeing more people and new faces discovering the FreeStore because it always seems like everybody is super happy and everybody get the sources they want.”

“I know dozens of students who use this for their clothes, utensils, blankets and outdoor wear,” said Karwowski. “When it’s a really cold day, especially in January, it is easy to come down and grab a hat or scarf.”

Allie Gabalski, another student employee at the Office of Sustainability, said that the goal of the FreeStore is making sure students have what they need. Winter gear was emphasized, since it is among the more articles of clothing students would need to purchase with Fairbanks’ cold winters.

“Winter clothes are expensive,” said Gabalski. “Students don’t always have access to the money that they need.”

Among other programs offered by the Office of Sustainability is the Green Bikes program. The Office of Sustainability breaks down the history of the Green Bikes on the Green Bikes website, stating graduate students Ben Abbott and Michaela Swanson started the program in fall 2010. The Green Bikes program now maintains over 100 bikes, offers regular clinics and bike maintenance.

According to the Office of Sustainability, the Green Bikes program “strives to increase sustainable transportation, student health, and recycling within the campus community.”

“To meet our goals we maintain and provide all-season long-term bicycle rentals for students, low-cost short-term rentals, clinics covering both mechanical and riding skills, and act as a hub for cycling advocacy and outreach on campus,” stated the website.

According to Gabalski Green Bikes are available for rental even in winter and can be found at Nordic House under the office of Title IX.

The Office of Sustainability offers funding for students interested in starting their own sustainability projects. One of these funding programs is the Green Revolving Fund, which according to their website was established in the summer of 2015 “to increase the effectiveness of the student sustainability fee by reinvesting in the University.”

According to the same source, 1 million dollars between 2010 and 2014 was invested into sustainability projects. Some projects proposed address issues that may include energy, transportation, waste management, sustainable design, education and curriculum, food systems, social sustainability, and processes and institutions.

For more information on funding and other programs offered by the Office of sustainability, visit the office or website at

The hours of the Office of Sustainability are as followed:

Monday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Tuesday 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.


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