The Student
Opinion
The value of free stuff
by Hannah Udall, 6/09/21

Leaving home and going to university is exciting, but it does come with peripheral anxieties. Suddenly you are responsible for daily expenses in a way you may not have been before. This can increase the allure of free stuff and make your eyes more attuned to spotting bargains.

Edinburgh has one of the most palpable communities in comparison to other cities I have experienced. Whether this is due to being a bit smaller, or thanks to a few lovely individuals, I cannot say. What I can say is that it is a blessing to be part of it. There is a wonderful group on Facebook called the Meadows Share which I encourage all students to join! It is a place where help is offered to people who need it, where you can ask and answer questions, and where people post items free to go to a good home if they no longer need them. I have asked questions on this page and got brilliant advice, as well as receiving some kitchen items that another flat no longer needed. For students, this page can be invaluable!

Here I use the word ‘community’ to mean more than a group of people. I attach to this word a meaning of mutual support and care – looking out for each other and respecting each other. And whilst I am thankful for the communities I have been part of, it is important to remember communities are not self-perpetuating; they need individuals to keep them going, people on the page to answer queries and questions, and others still to post found wallets and not mal use this occurrence. Above all, a community needs people to spend time offering goods they no longer need.

Another wonderful space in Edinburgh is The Shrub Coop. It is a zero-waste hub with many facets, including a non-profit space where you can get help fixing your bike, a swap shop (where you can buy, swap, or donate preloved items), and a food-sharing hub that rescues surplus food at risk of going to landfill.

However, before revelling in the joys of thrifty finds, remember that nothing is truly free. Think about ways in which you can give back to the community and make it stronger. This could range from volunteering at the Shrub to simply being friendly to strangers. Moreover, it’s easy to think of everything as having solely a monetary value, but there is a more complicated backstory to items, and the free/cheap option whilst being good for your pocket might be bad for the planet. It doesn’t hurt to think about shopping ethically, even if this is just with a few items. Paying more money for things with a longer lifetime often benefits the planet. Finally, when browsing for ‘free stuff’, always remember: someone might need it more – don’t just grab it because it’s free!

Image: a Freshers’ Fair via Flickr