The Free Store was initially established as a pop-up event held across campus by UTSC Regenesis, the local branch of the environmental student group Regenesis. The Free Store is meant to facilitate a circular economy on campus, accepting donations of used household items such as pots, pans, cutlery, toasters, kettles and books that are then offered for free to incoming students staying in residence. Not only does this keep usable items out of landfills, but it also reduces financial barriers for new students in need of household goods.
Initiatives like the Free Store integrate multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals into every day campus life, namely Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities and Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities.
After recieving the $5000 Wendy Adams Sustainability Student Grant, UTSC Regenesis was able to reopen their permanent location for the Free Store behind the Student Residence Centre. In April, UTSC Regenesis held a Residence move-out donation drive with the support of the U of T Scarborough Sustainability Office, and the Office of Student Housing and Residence Life.
From April 28th to May 5th, over 60 volunteers took over the Student Residence Centre to sort through items donated by outgoing students, staff and community members. These items were distributed to the Free Store as well as a handful of other local organizations.
The week-long process required over 240 hours of work by dedicated volunteers. "Every day there was something to do," says volunteer Idil Gure. "Clothing to be sorted, dishes to be washed. The experience was long but very fulfilling."
The results of this hard work were remarkable, including:
- 11 boxes of non-perishable food items, donated to the Scarborough Campus Student Union's Food Centre.
- 1 box of unopened medical masks and COVID-19 tests, donated to the Health and Wellness Centre.
- Over 1000 pounds of clothing, appliances, shoes and household items, donated to Diabetes Canada.
- A fully restocked Free Store, ready to open in the Fall 2023 semester for new and returning students.
For the move-out volunteers, the event provided a hands-on opportunity to engage in sustainability and meet like-minded members of the community. "I really enjoy the concept of the Free Store, and I even shopped there myself last year," says Djaigbe. "I always try to volunteer anytime they need help, because I love giving back to the community, as well as making new friends and getting to know other students."
"Sustainability is something that I consider important to me, and I was happy to find an accessible outlet to help my community through this event," says Gure. "I think having activities and events like this on campus is important to get more students interested in the UN Sustainable Development Goals."
To take items or donate your own used items in the Fall/Winter Semester, check @regenesisUTSC on Instagram to find the store hours for the coming year. To volunteer with UTSC Regenesis, reach out on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter @regenesisUTSC.