Over the course of a couple weeks, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Free Store donation drive has been giving students the opportunity to walk out with furnishings.
The drive, which has been held for the last few years, has been run by Sharmilla Raj, sustainability manager at the TMU, to allow students to save money on home appliances and school supplies.
This years drive ran from August 23 to September 6.
On top of saving money, the event serves a secondary purpose: through donating, the items get reused and find a new home where they will be used instead of ending up in a landfill. The TMU website events page says “reusing or repurposing items plays a critical role in waste reduction.”
“What’s really important about the free store is that community connection that we’re creating here on campus, and we want people to start rethinking their consumer habits. Any student who takes something home from the free store has found value in a previously owned item. The cultural shift away from getting newer, bigger, shinier towards reuse and renewal is a key step towards sustainable living,” says Raj
This is the third free market hosted by TMU. The pop-up is set up the first two weeks of each semester. Raj says that the last market had over 4,000 students attend and expects this semester to surpass that number.
“It was extremely busy, it was very, very busy. We actually have a video of the lineup that went really just down the hall and wrapped around the whole corridor of students just waiting to get into the Freestore,” says Raj.
Everything at the drive is donated by other students or people in the area. The drive accepts everything from tables and chairs to clothes and electronics. Everything in the room is up for grabs including the chairs the volunteers sit on.
In the small room where it is held, the walls have been picked clean. Mona Hafez, a student and volunteer for the drive, says that everyday she sees a couple hundred people a day go through a pick through the salvage.
This has been Hafez’s first year volunteering for the event. She says that it has been an “amazing process” to help fill the room and see it empty. “It’s been an amazing process seeing the students’ faces lit up by the amount of things that they can take,” says Hafez.
“Everything in Toronto at this point in time is pretty expensive. So we’re trying to make the transition to university life as seamless and smooth as possible for students as well as diverting waste from the landfill,” says Hafez. “I’ve seen students walk away with a microwave, a chair, and things that would have been way more expensive to get, especially as a first year or second year in Toronto.”
Despite the limitations on big ticket items, people would line up repeatedly. Small items like office supplies were unlimited to take. To make sure everyone had a chance, there were limitations on what could be taken when it came to home appliances and furniture.
The pop-up refreshes the inventory on display at the start of every day. Raj says this so everyday there are high value items available rather than having everything gone within the first 24 hours.
“We’ve actually staggered our donations throughout the two weeks so that we can ensure that all students have access or opportunity to come to our free store and get access to those items. But they do go fairly quickly. We do also have a two item limit as well to ensure that you know as many students can have access to the free store,” says Raj.
The donation drive will be happening again at the start of the winter semester.
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