VCU is opening a ‘free store’ that will provide access to used goods

The goal of VCU’s Free Store will be to divert items from the landfill and alleviate financial burden.

A smiling woman holding a stack of garbage bins.
Office of Sustainability interns Taia Blizard, a recent VCU graduate, and Tommy Ryan, a senior graphic design major, show off inventory that will be available when the free store opens. (Photo by Brian McNeill, University Public Affairs)

The Office of Sustainability at Virginia Commonwealth University is opening an on-campus shop that will allow members of the VCU community to donate or take home free art and school supplies, electronics, small furniture, home goods, sports equipment, books and more.

VCU’s Free Store, which will be located at 201 N. Belvidere St., is expected to open at the start of the fall semester. The idea behind the Free Store is that it could reduce the amount of unwanted items sent to the landfill while also providing the VCU community with equitable access to necessities and other goods.

“During [the] 2018 move-out, we noticed a large amount of items left on loading docks. These items were reusable and in good condition. We began doing research on reuse programs at public universities, and found that a free store is something that our office could most likely manage,” said Erin Stanforth, director of sustainability at VCU. “With time, and buy-in from departments throughout the university, we began to collect items. The goals of the Free Store are to divert items from the landfill and alleviate financial burden felt by students.”

The Free Store will accept for donation: art supplies, school/office supplies, holiday/event decorations, small un-upholstered furniture, electronics (hard drives from computers must be removed), nonperishable or canned food, unopened personal-hygiene products, sports equipment, art, books, building materials, gardening supplies, bikes and bike parts, cooking supplies, hangers, lamps, trash cans, fans and similar items.

Items can be donated at the RamBikes building at 201 N. Belvidere St., which will share space with the Free Store. So far, more than 1,000 items have been donated, primarily from VCU students. To schedule a donation, contact sustain@vcu.edu.

The Free Store will not accept certain items for donation, including clothing, shoes, bed linens, used personal-hygiene products (such as toothbrushes, brushes and combs), upholstered furniture, mattresses and inoperable electronics.

The Free Store will be operated by VCU’s Office of Sustainability, part of Facilities Management in the Division of Administration. Once it gets off the ground, organizers expect there will be volunteering opportunities to help staff the store.

The store will be accessible to all VCU students, faculty and staff with a valid VCU ID.