By Elijah McKenzie– 

GRASS is one of the many groups for sustainability at U of L. Here pictured is from the sustainability fair where students were offered farm fresh produce.

Lyon College, Duke University and Warren Wilson College: what do these institutions of higher learning have in common? Free stuff, and now it’s coming to the University of Louisville.

Group Recycling and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) – a recognized student organization – is currently proposing to create and maintain a free store at U of L, where students, faculty and staff can openly donate and exchange items like clothes, books and school supplies without ever opening a wallet.

Laura Krauser, a freshman history major and secretary of GRASS, said the idea of a free store came out of an experience she had during her senior year at Presentation Academy.

“Some of my friends and I had a big clothes swap before spring break, but we never thought of it as something that could be sustainable,” Krauser said. “It turned out to be the most sustainable thing my school ever did. So, I brought the idea to GRASS, thinking it could just be a semester event, but now it’s grown into a permanent entity.”

According to the university proposal written by Tim Darst, executive director of Kentucky Interfaith Power & Light, the U of L Free Store is meant to encourage people to think sustainably and recycle used items that would otherwise be thrown away.

“It initially started out as a way to collect the overflow of things that students threw out of their dorms at the end of the semester,” said Patton Brown Scott, a junior geography major and GRASS member. “We collected big piles of junk and then formulated ideas of getting the stuff back out into the community.”

Partnerships have formed between GRASS and the U of L Sustainability Council to gather volunteers and students to help operate the store.

“We are currently talking to the University Center for Environmental Education on the details of that partnership,” wrote Darst, a GRASS member who often serves as a liaison between the RSO and the community. “We hope to forge more partnerships as the project continues and grows.”

GRASS is also seeking funding from the Sharing Project, Student Government Association, and private donations to pay for the store’s expenses.

The free store is scheduled to open at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester and is tentatively planned to be located in Unitas Tower.

Though the hours of operation have yet to be finalized, GRASS members said they hope to keep the free store open at least one day per month or per week. In addition, the store is planned to remain active during freshman orientation and move-in week, when students are most likely to donate unwanted furniture from their dorms.

Andrew Hockenberry, a junior geosciences major and GRASS vice president, said that his hope for the free store is that it becomes an ongoing and sustainable part of the U of L community.

“I want it to become something that goes on after I graduate,” said Hockenberry. “I think it would help make new students and former students feel more connected – graduating seniors leave their old stuff to be used by incoming freshmen.

I think for me, if I were a freshman when a free store was open, it would have been a cool experience.”

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Photo by Nathan Douglas/The Louisville Cardinal