Freeshops, Giveaway Shops, Umsonstladen, Weggeef Winkel etc. are stores where all goods are free. They propose new ways of accessing goods that are based on the sharing of resources and avoiding waste.
Picture by The Eggplant, creative commons
"There is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed"
In Freeshops people bring the goods they no longer use or need; the goods can be new or used. The shop will then offer up these goods for free to anybody who can use, wants or needs them. . Therefore, whether it is a book, a piece of furniture, a garment or a household item, it is all freely given away (although some places operate a one-in, one-out–type policy, e.g. swap shops).
The idea is to avoid waste by giving a new life to objects that are being unused, facilitating access to these resources for anyone as objects are for free, and doing this with the aim of building other ways of exchanging objects/resources outside the market and in a non-profit based relation.
Freeshops are starting to appear in many European towns and cities, especially in the Netherlands and Germany. It could be said that they reflect a "sign of the times" in Europe, where there is an over abundance of goods/wealth among the population, yet increasing rates of poverty, precarity and inequality. Freeshops should therefore be viewed as being able to provide a solution to this paradox, as well as a means to avoid or reduce waste and promote a healthier, more sustainable environment.
Spotlight: Freeshops in the Netherlands
Freeshops in the Netherlands are mostly run by squatters as a statement against the consumerism of our times. The idea is not primarily to provide for the poor, but to encourage people from buying new goods, to offer a more eco-friendly alternative to "common" stores, and to provide a space for peoples' unused items. As the popular saying goes, "one man's trash is another man's treasure"! Freeshops are real life proof that an economy without property (and therefore trade) is possible. The slogan of the stores is: "there is enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed".
Other quick facts
- The first Dutch Freeshop was opened in Leiden (Netherlands), by members of the Eurodusnie Collective.
- Due to the lack of income and profit, freeshops are often housed in squats. The shops are run by volunteers only, and naturally don’t make any profit.
- Freeshops are often important for more than just practical reasons of providing people with things; by providing a de-commercialised space they promote community and other voluntary activities.
Examples of freeshops
- Kostnix, Vienna, Austria (website in German).
- Die Schenke, Vienna, Austria. Besides die Schenke, a food co-op, an anarchist library, a theory office and many more use the more than 330m2 large space in the 8th district of Vienna.
- Skoros, Athens, Greece.
- Magasin pour rien, Mulhouse, France (website in French).
- Leila, Berlin, Germany (website in German).
Links and other sources
- For further information on Freeshops (in German, Dutch and English), go to weggeefwinkels.nl.
- Interested in setting up your own Freeshop? To find out how, go to How to start a freeshop!
- For a global list of Freeshops, see here.
- Information on Freezones article from Ekopedia (in french)
- Directory of Freezones all over the World (possibility to add your own freezone)(in french): http://nonmarchand.org/pmwiki/Listes/ZonesDeGratuite