It’s an early sign of fall. College campuses are buzzing with activity as vans and cars full of “stuff’’ dot the landscape and students get settled into their dorms, apartments and houses.

For many, that means a fair amount of back-to-school shopping and buying. But everything doesn’t have to be new. Reusing items already on campus reduces waste and is better for the environment. It’s also a lot cheaper.

That’s why we applaud the organized efforts of local colleges and universities to make that process easier. In the true spirit of “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” Hamline University and the University of Minnesota have teamed up to keep thousands of used but useful items from being thrown away.

Six years ago, the U started its Pack and Give Back program to collect items that students no longer wanted when they moved out in the spring, but too many of those items were eventually tossed anyway. Now the U and Hamline collect reusable items in the spring and store them in a warehouse. Then in the fall, both schools host free stores.

And during the last week it’s open, the U’s free store is also open to residents who live nearby. That wisely spreads the recycling benefits to the wider community. Hamline staffers and volunteers estimate that they kept about 6,000 pounds of unwanted items out of the waste stream during the last year alone.

“I keep saying, ‘You know, before you do your Target run, see if there’s stuff that’s reusable,’ ” Valentine Cadieux, Hamline’s director of sustainability, told the Star Tribune. “The average college student throws away 640 pounds of stuff a year. And over half of that is when they move out.”

In a similar effort, Macalester College hosts a free store throughout the year where students can drop off and pick up items.

The free stores are among the many sustainability efforts at colleges and universities across the nation. Increasingly, students are leading ecologically friendly initiatives, including reducing energy consumption and using locally grown food in cafeterias.

Those efforts are worth expanding and celebrating. The environment will benefit from the efforts of thousands of young adults who keep the recycling going. And students and parents can receive some budget relief by not spending as much of their hard-earned money on new furniture and decor.