The Long Beach Free Store
Today’s consumer model has led to the fact that people have a lot of unused “stuff” they acquire and hold on to – yet they can feel unfulfilled, isolated and disconnected. The never ending race to acquire new or more items and possessions may supply a momentary rush or reprieve, but it does not address the problem and can serve to increase ones feeling of “not having enough” and highlight a general position of scarcity. This drive to acquire new and “more” also leads to a problem of added volume to the waste stream, increased cost to both the individual and to the greater community in dealing with or disposing of the waste, and at a cost to the environment. Environmental impact is not only felt on the back end – in dealing with the waste, but also on the front end in the added cost and environmental impact of new production of goods sourced from raw materials and resources as well as distribution costs to move new items into their end destination to consumers. People who cannot afford to acquire “new and more” feel at a loss and “less than” others who have the funds to follow this model, while there are even those who struggle to maintain the ability to fill basic needs. Recent economic conditions highlight these issues, but they are still present even in the best of economic conditions.
While the current economic conditions highlight the unfulfilled needs of individuals who cannot afford to acquire items that they may want or need – there have always been segments of society who struggle with this. At the same time – the constant waste stream and depletion of resources caused by this “throw away” consumer mentality is an on-going problem which affects us all. With all of the consumer goods that have already been produced– we may find that there is actually an abundance of many of the things that people want or need going unused in the community.
If we search for ways to move these items outside of the traditional consumer model we can make it easier to get many goods into the hands of those who need or want them – who can use them - and move them away from being unused idle clutter. The best way to do this is to mobilize a spirit of sharing and turn it into a common everyday action. When people share with each other – the community can fill many needs without consideration to economic constraints.
The Free Store offers a physical space for people to share what they have, and find what they need – outside of the commercial consumer model.
This can pull both individuals and communities out of a position of scarcity and into a position of abundance. The action of sharing can bring a fulfillment and reduce feelings of scarcity – as well as the drive for ever “new and more” stuff. This recycling and reuse of goods in the community also helps address the waste caused by the “throw away consumer” system and saves on cost related to waste management, as well as the cost of depleting natural resources to produce new goods. We also encourage creative recycling and reuse – asking people and artists to source items from the free store to create new items / crafts and art.
The Free Store serves as a starting point for a conversation about sharing in the community and an easy way for anyone to get involved. Participation in this sharing activity also helps to build connections to others in the community and helps to establish a greater sense of community in general.
We are the only Free Store or establishment of its kind in the greater Southern California Area. While there are many projects which aim to redistribute needed goods to the underprivileged or those in need – many of them act as a function of charity.
Our focus is not on charity (though it can produce a charitable outcome and we do work with charitable organizations) – but on sharing and reuse within the community. We have no economic requirements or prerequisites based on need. We are open to everyone – and we are unique in that way.
While there are, and have been other Free Stores in the country – both present and past – it is incredibly difficult for a Free Store to establish itself as an on-going program and especially difficult for a Free Store Project to establish itself in a regular retail space for an extended amount of time.
Any Free Store that “makes it” – and continues on in a continuous established basis is a strongpoint for the free store movement and the sharing economy.
Just the FACT that we exist – is our strongest impact. Beyond any other effect or benefit, beyond any other personal story of sharing and relief – it is the fact that we provide a physical manifestation for the sharing movement.
This is not to discount any personal benefit, touching story or instance – because those ARE the reasons that WE exist – but the FACT that we exist allows it to happen all the more.
Long Beach Free Store Programs
Swaps & Sharing Events : past 3 years and on-going
Free Store: Past 2 Years and On-Going
The Free Store operates to accept donations of unused items in the community and redistribute them to others who can use them. It is an open and inclusive system – without qualifiers for income or need – because everyone is welcome to and encouraged to participate in the sharing. Everyone has something to share – and everyone can find something they can use.
In addition to regular Free Store activities, we plan and execute other sharing events which aim to encourage sharing in the community, encourage recycling and reuse, and help build connections in the community. These events include the monthly Seven-Ten Swap, PoP Up Free Store events and sharing events and swaps.
We also aim to serve as a home-base to promote other positive actions in the community and bring together groups and individuals for mutually beneficial relationships. The Free Store itself as well as the events can serve as a platform for other actions – such as specialized sharing in micro-community groups (such as an Art-Swap for artists for example), and donation drives for requested items which go to those who are in most need in the community.
Looking forward for 2013 & on…
Our next area of focus is on furthering programming which encourages people to source items from the Free Store for upcycling – to create new items / crafts and art from Free Store stock.
We also aim to plan programming which lays out models of sharing that others can duplicate and bring into their own community.
- We aim to (and have) facilitated the redistribution of a large quantity of unused items in the community – resulting in a direct reduction of many of those items into the waste stream.
(We recognize that people may have taken other avenues to recycle their unused items such as thrift stores or donation bins).
- We have (and aim to continue to) encouraged and inspired a “letting go of” and “cleaning out” of unused items for individuals who have taken such action in order to facilitate a greater participation of sharing through the Free Store and it’s associated events.
- We have (and aim to continue to) facilitated connections between people of different socio-economic class and situations in the sharing of items with the community.
- We have (and aim to continue to) serve as a platform to present other positive programs and actions in the community. For example – we have engaged our patrons to participate in drives for new or gently used items for others in need (such as toy drives at Christmas, prom dress drives, special drives for programs to help get people Work Clothing or School Uniforms and Supplies).
- We hope to serve as a starting point for a conversation about Sharing in the community. People already may have experience sharing with close friends and family or within closed systems (such as in clubs or at work) – but we hope to bring it into a greater spirit of sharing within the greater community.
- We also hope to reframe the way people think about their possessions / their “stuff” – and hope that people can start to see that they are not defined by the “stuff” that they have or acquire – but by what they “Do” that serves others in the community, that serves the environment, and that serves themselves and their own families best.
How Many People we Hope To Impact:
- We currently serve at least 500-600 people within a year’s activities of swaps and sharing events + the Free Store. We hope to double that in the next 2 years.
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