What’s thriftier than a thrift store? In Baltimore, Portland, San Francisco, and other cities scattered across the United States and Europe, free stores—shops that offer goods at no cost—are a practical protest of consumer culture.
The concept is simple: People bring in good-quality items they no longer want or need (toasters, air mattresses, artwork, clothing); and people who want or need those items take them home, free of charge, explains Victoria Kreha in Green American.
“From a box on a street corner to an open-air market to an actual brick and mortar store, free stores can take many forms,” Kreha writes, but their primary philosophies are consistent. Bonnie Nordvedt, administrator of the Baltimore Free Store says, “The purpose of a free store is for everyone to rethink their shopping habits, spending habits, and general addiction to ‘newer-bigger-better.’”
While free stores are especially helpful to low-income members of the community, Nordvedt explains that they are for everyone, regardless of economic standing:
We have seen a lot of people who think the free items are just for those who can’t otherwise afford them. While that is definitely a part of why we do this, it is not the main reason. We want to bring people together, not continue to segregate them into the “haves” and the “have-nots.” Every single person should be reusing, repurposing, giving, and taking.
Interested in starting up a free store or market in your city? Check out the tips offered by Green American and the Really Really Free Market for finding a location, attracting volunteers, and gathering items to give away.