Introducing the Free Store


The UW Sustainability Office has launched a new initiative this term: the Free Store, where all items are free to take for those who need them. 

During the fall term, the store will be operating on a pop-up basis. It ultimately hopes to have a permanent location on campus, but for now the biweekly pop-up events will work to gauge student interest. During pop-up events all items will be completely free, with no limits on the number of items that can be taken. 

Donations will also be accepted at pop-up events, and donation appointments can be set up by emailing Home goods, books, art supplies, electronics, school supplies and more will be collected for redistribution. Shoes and textiles will not be collected as they can be donated to the WUSA Thrift Store. 

Similar free stores have appeared at other Ontario universities like the Toronto Metropolitan University, York University, and the University of Ottawa. These spaces offer an opportunity to reduce consumption and waste by giving items a second chance to be used. They also provide an opportunity for university students, faculty, and staff to practice environmental and financial sustainability.

Courtesy UWaterloo Sustainability Office

One volunteer at the  pop-up event explained that helping to “reduce waste” is the main goal of the Free Store, which also aims to increase the accessibility of items on campus. Members of the UW community can get involved by donating items, attending pop-up events, and being aware of the store’s initiative.

Francesca Girmenia, communications and outreach assistant for UW’s Sustainability Office, expanded upon the store’s operations: “The main sustainability purpose of the Free Store is to divert usable items from the landfill to progress on [UW’s] goal to become a zero-waste campus by 2035.” 

By using locations such as the Free Store and WUSA Thrift, students will be contributing to the university’s zero waste campaign. To become more involved, one volunteer at the pop-up suggested that on-campus residents pledge to participate in UW Food Services’ eco-container program and dine-in rather than ordering takeout. 

Click here for more information about the Free Store, including a list of acceptable donation items and upcoming pop-up events.

With files from Natalie Testart and Humreet Sandhu.