Some Duke students have been practicing a new form of free market, where all goods at the market are literally free.
The Duke Free Store, a combined operation of Duke Recycles and Sustainable Duke, allows students to donate or take office supplies, books and other miscellaneous objects free of charge. The store, which meets every other week in the Bryan Center, including this Thursday, encourages individuals to make use of items that would otherwise be thrown away. The store is run by three members of Students for Sustainable living, a Sustainable Duke program that aims to make Duke more environmentally friendly.
“People are like, ‘What’s the catch?’’ said freshman Kelly Shen, one of the SSL members who runs the store. “We tell them there is none.”
The Free Store was opened four years ago by undergraduates who were part of SSL. Lately, though, it has been increasing in popularity. On Jan. 17, it attracted 130 people. And on Jan. 31, it had reached that number more than three hours before closing.
“More and more people are starting to know about us,” Shen said. “It’s starting to become a thing at Duke.”
The majority of the items donated to the store are from Duke faculty members who are participating in the Green Devil Smackdown, said Samantha Emmert, a sophomore who also helps organize the store.
The Smackdown is a sustainability competition involving teams of 10-100 students and faculty members pursuing the competition’s grand prize, a “Green Devil championship belt.” The Free Store provides a sheet where donors can write down their information in order to earn points for the competition.
Although many of the donors are Duke faculty, students have not been shy about taking items, Shen said.
“You never know what you can find—practical stuff like envelopes and also binders for school,” said Kennetra Irby, a second year student at the Divinity School and shopper at the Free Store.
Some items in the store have more value than most people would expect, Emmert said.
The store has had printers, DVD players and microwaves. On Jan. 31, an individual even donated a book signed by Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“Lots of people feel bad for taking things,” Shen said. “Some people take a bunch of things and then ask, ‘Are you sure? I feel bad.’”
Sarah Wilcox, a Duke student also in her second year at the Divinity School, said she was intrigued because she lives in a town where she and her friends used to get together and do a clothes swap.
“I was like oh, it’s just a small town thing, that will never happen again,” Wilcox said. “But I think it’s cool that they are doing something like that here.”
Emmert said she is not aware of anything similar to the Free Store at other universities. The store demands support from not only the students, but also the University.
“It takes a lot of time getting everything organized and one of us needs to be here all day,” she said. “Duke’s ahead of the curve in a lot of ways in terms of sustainability stuff.”