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Shop for free: Sheridan’s Pop-up Shops cultivate a culture of sustainability

Newsroom authorby Patrick NavalFeb 10, 2023

Corporate Sustainability Manager, Caroline Holmes, stands near the stationary table at a Sheridan Freeuse Pop-up Shop. Students are browsing tables of donated items – office supplies, kitchenware, clothing and more. One student, examining a moleskin notebook, asks if it is, in fact, free. Holmes nods with a smile. At the Freeuse Pop-up Shop, everyone gets to shop free of charge, and many leave with unexpected finds. 

Launched in September 2022 as part of Sheridan’s Mission Zero sustainability initiative, the Freeuse Pop-Up Shops aim to extend the life of useful goods while promoting a culture of waste reduction, reuse, and sharing on campus and beyond. Students and staff donate gently used items in red bins made available in the libraries at each Sheridan campus. After ensuring the quality and usability of each item, the pop-up shops offer the donations to the Sheridan community free of charge.

Students shopping at the Freeuse Pop-up Shop event.

“Through the Mission Zero framework, we try to create meaningful opportunities for students and employees across the Sheridan community to get engaged in more sustainable behaviours,” said Holmes. “The Freeuse pop-up shops fit nicely within that framework because they provide a convenient way for people on campus to participate in zero waste initiatives.”  
In the first semester of Freeuse, there were 14 pop-up shop events across Sheridan’s three campuses, attracting more than 1,900 shoppers with nearly 3,000 pounds of donations collected. The available items vary for each event based on donations received. Clothes, novels, and office supplies are popular, in-demand items, but shoppers don’t shy away from unique goods, such as antique lamps, jewelry boxes or food processors.

“We hope to make individuals more conscious about what they buy and throw away, adopt changes in their daily lives to reduce waste and have conversations with their family members and friends.”

– Caroline Holmes, Corporate Sustainability Manager

“One of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which help guide Sheridan’s efforts, focuses on sustainable consumption and production patterns,” said Holmes, “and the pop-up shops tie directly into that principle. We’re acting on a small scale, but I believe small things can have a big impact.” 

According to the UN’s 2022 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) report, material consumption around the world rose by 65% from 2000 to 2019. “If we extend the program for the next few years, that’s a significant volume of materials that could offset the purchase of new goods or prevent useful items from ending up as waste in a landfill.” 

But Holmes explained environmental benefits are only one side of the Office for Sustainability’s objectives – the other is the moment of inspiration for people. “We hope to make individuals more conscious about what they buy and throw away, adopt changes in their daily lives to reduce waste and have conversations with their family members and friends.” Students shopping at the Freeuse Pop-up Shop event. Aiswarya Rayirath, a first-year Sheridan student helping with the initiative, was glad to see the turnout from her peers. “I saw a lot of students pick something out for themselves and come back a few minutes later with their friends, who are just as eager to look through the items and learn more about Freeuse.” 

“It’s not surprising how popular the shops have become,” Rayirath said. “Students are always looking for a deal—anything to cross items out of their shopping lists—and the pop-up shops are an excellent way to save money while spreading awareness of and participating in sustainable practices.”

Event coordinator hosting Freeuse Pop-up Shop event.

The idea for the shops started out with the hope of eventually establishing a permanent shopping space, explained Dave Clark, Sheridan’s Project-Officer of Sustainability. “In the meantime, we launched trying out the pop-up shop setup, which was well received by the community. It offered us the flexibility to try out different spaces at Sheridan that are already available.”  

“I’m excited to see the level of enthusiasm we get from the Sheridan community, many of whom are eager to learn more about sustainability and new ways to get involved,” said Holmes. “The Freeuse Pop-up Shops exceeded our expectations and helped us accelerate our efforts to spread awareness about conscious consumption, all while promoting the thrill of thrifting!” 

Call for donations 

Following its success, the Freeuse Pop-Up Shops are back in 2023, and the Mission Zero team is looking for more donations from the community. Anyone interested in donating and attending one of the Freeuse Pop-up Shop events can visit Sheridan’s Mission Zero website for information. 

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