Sustainability is driving force behind Lion Surplus

March 08, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While much of the Penn State community knows about the Lion Surplus Store at Penn State University Park as a great place to score a bargain on a used desk or filing cabinet, Lion Surplus also plays a major role in sustainability at the University.

Lion Surplus handles the removal and re-sale of University-owned equipment in environmentally responsible ways, through in-store sales, websites, in-person auctions, and recycling. Open year-round to students, faculty, staff and the public, Lion Surplus returns more than $500,000 each year to University departments.

The store’s inventory, which comes from University Park and other Penn State campuses, features a unique variety of items, ranging from office furniture, to athletic clothes and gear, to scientific equipment. On any given day customers might find desks, filing cabinets, tables from the Penn State hotels, bookcases or speaker podiums. Higher-cost items such as microscopes, food service equipment and farm equipment are usually sold online through auction sites such as eBay and GovDeals.

Reusing and recycling is a primary focus at Lion Surplus. The team works hard at recycling whatever can’t be sold. For example, all electronics are recycled 100% if they can’t be sold.

“Any computer, electronic equipment, or metal that we can’t resell is recycled,” said Glenn Feagley, manager of Lion Surplus. “If we can’t resell something and put it back into the system that way, the goal then becomes to keep it out of the landfill.”

Lion Surplus collects scrap metal to recycle and partners with the Office of Physical Plant to sell recycled cardboard, office paper, newspaper and aluminum cans from the dining commons. During periodic renovations, tractor-trailer loads of old carpeting from residence halls and other campus buildings are sent to a factory to be recycled into new carpets, and the company then gives Penn State a price break on new carpeting.

Working with Penn State’s Sustainability Institute to promote University-wide sustainability, Lion Surplus supports efforts such as encouraging departments to send unwanted folders, binders and other small office supplies to the store, rather than throwing them in the trash.

The store also partners with Penn State academic departments as a valuable resource for faculty and students who need materials for a variety of projects, ranging from engineering to art to scientific research. Through this unique collaboration — many surplus and salvage operations at large universities don’t have connections to academics — cast-off materials are repurposed, and faculty and students save money while practicing sustainability in a hands-on way.

Feagley said he enjoys the collaboration with faculty and students and appreciates the way they repurpose what they find at Lion Surplus.

“Sometimes, they come across the best finds in the area behind the warehouse and showroom,” he said. “It’s amazing how they can take the rustiest piece of trash and envision something. To me it’s important that we have that tie with professors and students. We’re all here because of the students and we like to help them when we can. Nothing makes me prouder than seeing a student walk in here with very little money and walk out with something they need.”

The appeal of Lion Surplus goes beyond campus and the surrounding community, said technical equipment salesperson Annette Bottorf.

“We have people traveling regularly from states like Kentucky, Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas. Often, people come to purchase equipment to start a new business because our prices are so affordable. They come in for a computer, see the variety we have here, and end up buying other things," said Bottorf.

Vehicle and computer auctions and other events are also important elements of Lion Surplus. During computer auctions, potential buyers can find not only computers, but also printers, projectors, cameras and more. The store also holds periodic bike and vehicle auctions as well as an annual Electronics Recycling Day, when Penn State employees, staff and students can drop off unwanted electronics for no charge.

Lion Surplus is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information, visit surplus.psu.edu.

Last Updated March 08, 2021