The Free Store is a community-based resource meant to help UT students reduce their environmental impact and save money.
What is the Free Store?
The Free Store is a community share space that allows UT students to shop for free, high-quality, lightly-used clothing, kitchenware, accessories, and small appliances at regularly scheduled Free Store Pop-Up events held throughout each academic year. The items at the Free Store are donated by UT students and members of the community as an alternative option to throwing old clothes and other items in the landfill.
The goal is to help address the problem of “too much” and “too little.”
The first two tenants of the waste hierarchy are to reduce the amount of new items created and to reuse items while they are still functional. Many items that are still in good condition head to recycling or landfills instead of to others who could use them. The Free Store aims to address the “too little” problem by providing those items, free of charge, to those in need in our campus community.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, the Office of Sustainability has already hosted two Pop-Ups and one donation drive competition. Free Store Pop-Ups are held at a variety of locations on campus including:
- HSS Amphitheater
- UKirk Campus Ministry
- Residence Halls
- Student Union
2019 Free Store Stats
|Pounds of Items Distributed||250|
Why does the Free Store matter?
It reduces the environmental impact of UT students.
Buying new clothes is one of the single most harmful things an individual can do to the environment in terms of energy and resource consumption. Extracting raw materials from the environment to make household items consumes natural resources and produces greenhouse gases. Purchasing a clothing item online, for example, might seem like a minor purchase, but once you take into account all the water that was used to grow the cotton to make the shirt, the physical space required to grow the cotton, all the oil needed to harvest, manufacture, and transport the shirt, and the cardboard box it came in, your new shirt actually has a massive carbon footprint.
For clothing and other textiles, water is also a key issue. The table below lists how much water it takes to make everyday clothing items.
How much water are you wearing?
|Leather Shoes||3,626 gallons|
|Cotton Jeans||2,108 gallons|
|Cotton T-Shirt||659 gallons|
When you choose to buy used clothing instead of new, you reduce the number of resources required to make new clothing and keep old clothes out of the landfill. According to a 2016 survey detailed in the Washington Post, the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year.
It’s an inclusive, cost-free resource to reduce financial strain on students.
Free Store Pop-Ups are open to all members of the campus community.
By offering students an equal chance to take items for free, the Free Store is removing the stigma that surrounds financial insecurity. The cost of college can leave many students on a tight budget or going without necessities.
In a survey conducted by the Office of Sustainability in 2018, students reported that the monetary and convenience aspects of the Free Store were the most important to them. That is shifting in 2019, with more students answering that reusing items is important to them.
How do I participate?
We announce dates, times, and locations of Free Store Pop-Ups on Twitter.
You can donate clothes to the Free Store at our new permanent donation bin located at the 24/7 Public Recycling Drop-Off at 2121 Stephenson Drive, Dock 24.
If you or your organization would like to get involved with the Free Store, contact our Food Systems Coordinator/Grow Lab & Free Store Director Leah McCord.