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University of Ottawa’s Free Store sets a new standard for sustainability

The store has become a valuable resource for the international student community in particular.


With thousands of students moving on and off campus every year, universities across the country face a recurring waste problem. Despite tight budgets and student needs, discarded items end up in landfills every year. To try and combat the problem, the University of Ottawa’s office of campus sustainability opened the Free Store. What started in 2006 as a series of donation tables and pop-up give-away events has evolved into a popular brick-and-mortar centre for reuse and recycling, supporting the university community’s sustainability efforts.

“Our mission was two-fold,” said Angela Plant, supervisor of the store. “We wanted to tackle the issue of excessive waste during student move-outs, and at the same time, address the financial struggles that many students face.”

a building with windows that say Free store
Photo courtesy of University of Ottawa.

As the name suggests, everything in the store is free: clothing, shoes, towels and blankets, office and school supplies, kitchenware, electronics, lamps, as well as used textbooks and books. The Free Store project has fine-tuned the art of reusing and recycling, transforming discarded items into valuable resources for students.

“We aimed to create a space where students could comfortably drop in, browse, and take what they needed. It’s about making sustainability tangible and accessible,” said Jonathan Rausseo, the campus sustainability manager at U of O.

The store has become a valuable resource for the international student community in particular. “Anything for free is always a win-win thing. Being an international student, it has helped me avoid unnecessary expense for important household items like lamps, a vacuum and much more,” said Karn Kavathia, a master’s of mechanical engineering student at U of O. “It was a new concept to me when I got here because nothing is ever free usually. But it surprised me! So I like to contribute to the Free Store too whenever I can.”

Mr. Rausseo said the university was pleasantly surprised when they learned that several international students had taken the concept of a free store back to their home countries. By addressing their unique needs, the store not only empowers international students but also acknowledges their vital contribution to the academic ecosystem.

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  1. Vera Jones / October 5, 2023 at 08:17

    This is awesome! FYI there is a free clothing store in Ottawa. It’s called Savvy Seconds-West Carleton. There is a facebook page. This is a money free shop providing clothing to anyone who walks in. There are no qualifying questions. The free service is free and confidential. Students at Ottawa University are welcome to visit. There is no public transportation, so a vehicle is required. Some people car pool to come to Savvy Seconds-West Carleton. Some people visit with their social worker. Everyone is welcome. Congratulations on your free-store. It is a vital service.

  2. Tejal / October 5, 2023 at 09:17

    It’s a really very good initiative from the university of Ottawa. Very helpful to the students and also for the earth. Very appreciated.

  3. Brijesh Shah / October 6, 2023 at 14:18

    Truly a valuable piece of information. Such type of initiatives are very much helpful to the international students during their initial phase of transition.

  4. François Isedonne / October 13, 2023 at 02:20

    J’aimerais bien parvenir dans ce magasin comme une étudiante merci…