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Passing it on: Students shop secondhand at Front Yard Free-Cycle – Illinois State University News

Standing beneath a pair of towering tulip trees outside the Office of Sustainability, Dian Carlo pulled a gray blazer over his sweatshirt and fastened the top button.
“It’s a bit snug, but it’s super nice,” said Carlo, a sophomore biology education major.
Nearby, dozens of students sifted through tables of free clothing, shoes, and school supplies alongside furniture, minifridges, and even an air hockey table, during Illinois State University’s first Front Yard Free-Cycle event. Organized by the Office of Sustainability and held on the office’s front lawn, hundreds of students picked up thousands of free items that may have otherwise ended up in the landfill.
“I’m not one to dress super professionally, but going into my profession, I’m going to need some dress clothes,” Carlo said. “It’s really cool that I can find something like this here.”
Held August 18 during move-in and Welcome Week, the Front Yard Free-Cycle was a large-scale extension of the Share Shop, a new resource for Illinois State students to shop secondhand, free of charge. Located in the Office of Sustainability at 305 N. School St. the Share Shop was developed over the past two years by Avery Spranger ’22, a political science graduate student who sought to fulfill an unmet need.
“I grew up thrift shopping with my mom,” Spranger said. “Then it kind of became trendy, and I realized that when I got to campus, there’s not a place within walking distance for students to shop for secondhand clothes.”
Spranger, a member of the Student Government Association (SGA) as an undergraduate, collaborated with Office of Sustainability Director Elisabeth Reed to build an inventory of donations and conceptualize the shop’s layout. The Share Shop operated for a month at the end of the spring semester and is once again open during the 2022-2023 academic year, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“No matter where students are coming from in life, shopping secondhand—resource sharing—is the most sustainable thing for the planet,” Reed said. “So, regardless of your income, it’s the best thing to do.”
During spring move-out, thousands of discarded clothing and household items were collected through the Pass It On program—enough stuff to fill two truckloads for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, with thousands of items remaining for Illinois State’s Front Yard Free-Cycle.
“When we were setting up everything at 8 a.m., I told one of my friends, ‘I don’t know if anyone is going to come,’” Spranger said. By 9 a.m., the Office of Sustainability’s lawn was packed with students, one hour before the event was scheduled to start. “To have all of the tables cleared out by the time we were supposed to open—that was impressive.”
Spranger, Reed, and six sustainability student interns and volunteers continuously restocked tables and racks spread out across the lawn as students browsed. Ellanore Foltz, a freshman journalism major, said she and her floormates walked to the event together and were surprised by the large turnout.
“We thought we were going to hit the early end—but there are already a lot of people here,” said Foltz who arrived around 10 a.m. She grabbed a shirt and a reusable straw. Foltz’s floormate, freshman music therapy major Kennedy Carico picked up a shirt, a reusable straw, some stickers, and a three-ring binder.
“I think it’s cool that a lot of people are here,” Carico said. “‘Reuse and recycle’ is important because whatever we can do to work toward saving the planet and making it better is a good step.”
As new members of the campus community, Carico and Foltz said they were interested in attending future Office of Sustainability events and might volunteer with the office. They said they would definitely return for a future Front Yard Free-Cycle. “Maybe we’ll come a little earlier,” Foltz said.
While students departed with their newfound necessities and treasures, Reed reminded them to consider re-donating items in the future.
“I really want to encourage the idea of reuse and sharing all year long, so during move out, you don’t think about throwing it away. You’re thinking about somebody on campus or in our community who might need this,” Reed said.
She added that community members are invited to donate items by dropping them off at the Share Shop during regular business hours. Reed said she plans to eventually place donation boxes around the University and hopes to hold Share Shop pop-up events across campus.
“I’m really proud of the work that we’ve all done,” Spranger said. “To see the flocks of students coming down the block from the dorms—there’s nothing like that, knowing that something you helped organize is helping people, and it’s something students are excited about, and it’s helping connect them to campus.”
Still wearing his newly acquired gray blazer, Carlo said he might donate some of his own clothes to the Share Shop later this semester. He said the blazer, however, could stay with him for a while.
“From ISU to wherever I end up.”

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