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Free Stores

Free Stores Offer An Alternative To The Exploitative Capitalist Economy

Queens, New York - We all love a good bargain, and are sometimes willing to go to great lengths to secure one. But for a few hours at Woodbine, an experimental hub in Ridgewood, Queens, New York, thrifting was entirely free and there wasn’t a catch. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a flood of people showed up to the space 30 minutes before its “Free Store” event was supposed to begin. At a free store, people are encouraged to bring things they no longer need, but are too nice to throw away, and take things they want or need without any questions asked. It’s meant to be an experimental space for building an economy based in solidarity, not sales or barter, and to harness the immense amounts of waste and excess generated in capitalist economies.

How Free Stores Fight Waste, Connect Communities And Foster Resilience

For many people, the daily reality is dire: As of May 2022, 58 percent of Americans (approximately 150 million adults) are living paycheck to paycheck. Inflation recently hit a 40-year high, with prices for food, rent, energy, and basic consumer goods increasing by the day. Despite this, the federal minimum wage remains locked in at $7.25 an hour — a rate that hasn’t increased since 2009 — and while wages have been increasing, they aren’t keeping pace with the cost of living. Meanwhile, the mitigation and management of excessive waste is a concurrent issue. As the initial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic wane, families who are downsizing their lives or cleaning out their closets face the challenge of finding a new home for their excess stuff — or simply dumping it in a landfill.
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