Everyone loves free stuff, right?
Located on the ground floor of Park Region Hall on the north side of campus, the Free Store officially reopened on Oct. 1, giving students access to a variety of items donated by other students, faculty and alumni. Before COVID-19, the Free Store was open 24/7, and students could come in and take whatever they needed. It is often reorganized in August when international students arrive, giving them the option to access appropriate winter clothing instead of buying them new.
COVID-19 forced the school administration to shut down many places to avoid the possible risk of transmission. The office of sustainability decided to close the Free Store for the academic year of 2020-2021, assessing that it could be a dangerous spot where people exchange a lot of clothing items, notebooks, shoes and cooking utensils.
Many aspects excite students about having a Free Store on campus. David Kelm, a senior political science and environmental policy student, was Concordia’s sustainability intern for the summer of 2021 who took care of organizing the Free Store.
“I really like that we have the Free Store on campus. Working for the sustainability office is also related to my career goals and my academic interests so I was excited when I got the internship. In my freshman year, I took a climate change course and decided to apply for different programs that could match my interests in this topic,” Kelm said.
Kelm is also the sustainability advocate for the Student Government Association. There, he works closely with the office of sustainability to increase student awareness about sustainability and encourage more environmentally conscious habits.
“We had a sustainable move-out the past spring, so we gladly got a lot of donations. Especially from graduating students that needed to get rid of stuff ASAP. So we took them all in and it was a long process of sorting what could be reused, what should be thrown away and what could be donated to other thrift stores in town,” Kelm said.
Currently, the Free Store is managed by campus EcoReps whose main job is to spread awareness about ecological issues, to encourage environmentally responsible behavior and to plan related events and activities.
Anna Larson and Elizabeth Coffins, two sustainability interns, expressed that there were a lot of donations given to the Free Store in the last few weeks. Because of this, the Campus Events Commission decided to host a swapping event in the Centrum where people could come to take and give items such as clothes, shoes and cooking utensils. Larson and Coffins said that this event was a great opportunity to publicize that Concordia does have a Free Store and to let students know more about it.
Ashley Chepkorir, another EcoRep on campus, admits that she only got to learn about the Free Store when she started working for the office of sustainability, saying that a lot of students had no idea that Concordia had a place where people could just go and get things for free.
“I always find really nice things like blazers, blouses and sweaters. It makes me happy to be able to go whenever and use it,” Chepkorir said.
Chepkorir encourages students to go ahead and visit the Free Store since it is very convenient for any student budget. As a political science and a global studies student, she urges people to reuse items as much as possible and be more conscious about their consumption habits that might be not sustainable both financially and environmentally.
“I really love the program, and I enjoy finding a variety of items that could be used and styled differently. It also taught me that second-hand is not always bad since some of the items are still new,” Chepkorir said.
Kelm and the EcoRep coordinator, Yuden Dorji, are a lot happier with the Free Store reopening because the previous appointment system was not as efficient nor as accessible as having it opened 24/7.
“I was responsible for opening the Free Store last year by appointment. But I received so few requests and even when I did, it was hard to match my availability with the students who requested,” Dorji said.
Dorji says that reopening the Free Store is a milestone in Concordia’s journey to go back to the normal times before COVID-19.