Eco Action club hosts free store

After months of planning and a grassroots word of mouth campaign spearheaded by the EcoAction Club, Santa Monica College hosted the first free store on Tuesday, Nov. 20. There were 16 tables full of clothing, linens and books given away at the free store. The only stipulation was that all the items had to either be wearable or in working condition.

While there were items commonly donated through charities, many unorthodox items were given away as well, including toothpaste and bags of cement mix.

The more popular items were raffled off including stereo speakers, four bar stools and a mountain bike.

There was even a craft table where students could create their own holiday ornaments from recycled materials.

“We’re such a disposable society; lots of people in America are struggling to feed themselves, let alone clothe themselves,” said Lisa Burns, administrative assistant at the Center for Environmental and Urban Studies.

Burns, who is also an adviser for the EcoAction Club, routinely gives tours of the CEUS office, where recycled bookshelves have been turned on their sides to form benches in an effort to reduce waste.

“We try to put it out there—how to be sustainable in the smallest ways,” Burns said. “We wanted to show students who we are as far as sustainability.”

EcoAction Club President Alex Martinez is no stranger to sustainability. Martinez, a former Cal Poly Pomona student, took regenerative studies and saw a niche for the free store at SMC.

“Coming here I thought there was a lot of potential,” Martinez said. “I thought the community would really like it and get involved with it, and they did.”

The comedy club Improv in Hollywood donated stage lights, microphones and stands, which were all given away at the free store.

Improv will also be hosting an “Eco-Benefit” tonight, with all the proceeds going toward the CEUS.

“Ideally, it would be every semester,” said Martinez.

The free store is currently scheduled to be a biannual, “zero waste” event.

The first occurred last week, and the second is planned for Earth Week in April.

All items that were leftover were donated to a homeless shelter for families in downtown Los Angeles. All volunteers were given sustainable utensil kits.

Each kit holds food utensils with the idea of reducing the need for disposable forks and spoons when on the go.

“A big part of our campaign is to get people to reuse before recycling,” said Martinez.

“People weren’t used to it, they thought there was a catch to it. The hardest part was people didn’t know what it was,” said Erlin Martinez.

“I found it inspiring,” said Shawn Ahmed, who missed the first free store, but plans to attend the second one. “I love goodwill, but I would rather give things away than sell it.”

Students who wish to participate in the upcoming free store, or who would like to donate items are advised to visit the CEUS.

“We want students to know sustainability is alive and well here,” Burns said. “Sustainability starts with local communities then goes global.”