New campus “freestore” creates a more sustainable way to deal with dorm room discards

Every year when all the first years move out of residence they leave behind all their unwanted items. From kitchen appliances to wall decorations, these useful and undamaged items typically end up in the landfill.

But no longer will thousands of pounds of useful household items go to waste; the Laurier Sustainability Office in collaboration with Martin Luther University College is opening a “freestore” to re-home these items. Like a typical re-store, the freestore will redistribute discarded items to new owners, but at no cost.

In September 2018, Laurier opened a pop-up freestore for students to shop at and the success of this idea has inspired a more permanent version. The new freestore will be open to the public on Laurier’s Waterloo campus on Mar. 13 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. at 232 King Street North in room KB024, which is in the basement of the Special Constables office.

The Laurier community is welcome to come to the freestore opening and can take home up to five items from the store, and can also enjoy complimentary coffee and snacks.

The initial freestore pop-up in September 2018, along with Laurier’s Move Out Program, collected e-waste, textiles, textbooks and non-perishable food items, diverting 5000 pounds of waste from ending up in landfills in 2018.

The freestore has not officially set hours yet, but Katarina Milicic, the program and outreach coordinator of Laurier’s sustainability office, says the freestore will likely be open three or four times a week at the beginning of the upcoming school year in September, and then two times per week throughout the fall and winter terms.

Summer hours have not yet been defined either, but the sustainability office is considering opening the store on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, or giving people the option to request specific times they would like to drop by.

The freestore is not currently accepting donations, as they acquire a lot through the move out program and the local community, but this will likely change in the future. When the freestore is accepting donations, students can drop off donations as the freestore warehouse on 230 Regina Street in Waterloo, which will be set up throughout the year. Information about what the freestore will and will not accept can be found on the Laurier website.

The freestore is a step closer to a more sustainable way to deal with the items which students leave behind, as well as helping those who may not have the resources to purchase new or used items.

“In a university or in an institutional setting in general, even Laurier, it’s so important that we engage such a wide range of students in sustainability and it’s so important because eventually they’re going to be graduating and they’re going to be the next generation of our workforce. So it’s really key that we try to capture students,” said Milicic.

The Freestore grand opening will take place at the end of Zero Waste Week at Laurier – a week which is devoted to encouraging students to live more sustainably and reduce the amount of waste they produce.

The freestore is an important step in fostering a culture of sustainability at Laurier, which will eventually translate into the workforce and a more sustainable future.

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