January 13th, 2008
The Wonderful World of Freecycling
Way, way back in 2004 Grist Magazine published an article entitled Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now about a cool new environmentally friendly idea called “Freecycling.” Begun in 2003 by Deron Beal, a recycling program worker in Tucson, Arizona, freecycling is a network of people with ‘stuff’ they don’t want to throw away to take up landfill space, but don’t want to keep either. It’s a way of getting rid of stuff by giving it to someone who wants it, and you’d be surprised at some of the great stuff there is to be had for free!
Beal’s listserve is The Freecycle Network and it’s really taken off in the last few years. The network’s main page is minimal, offering a simple search field into which you type your locality, and which returns the address of the freecycle group closest to you. Currently the network boasts 4,226 groups with 4,338,000 members all over the world. It’s a totally grassroots non-profit movement of people exchanging stuff for free with their neighbors. Groups have been springing up on their own too, and stuff moves quickly.
Sometimes it’s a gallon or two of paint leftover from someone who didn’t use all 5 gallons when painting the living room. Sometimes it’s furniture that’s either redundant or in need of a little repair. It could be a refrigerator, an ugly but serviceable car, gravel or fill dirt, computers, radios, CD players or old VCRs, bags of cement, unused exercise equipment, even yard sheds and occasional horses. Freecycling is a fun way to exchange pretty much anything that’s not quite junk but you don’t want any more. And while you’re on the list to put up your notice, you might well find something someone else is giving away that is just the thing you desire! There are even some teachers who use the network to collect stuff for projects or used books, even extra classroom supplies.
You can get rid of the last 20 years’ worth of National Geographics taking up space in the basement, but not the last 20 years’ worth of girlie magazines. There are some rules, freecycling networks are user friendly and safe for kids.
My local freecycle group – which I just joined – lists the basic rules clearly…
1. All posts to Freecycle must be for FREE TANGIBLE ITEMS ONLY. No info posts allowed. No offers to BUY or SELL items.
2. Keep it Free, Legal and Appropriate for all ages. If it requires a Prescription or a License then it is not allowed on Freecycle. No alcohol, firearms, pornography, etc.
3. All posts need to be headed properly in the subject line along with the item! There are 4 headings that should be used: Offer, Wanted, Taken or Received. Please do not use Pending or Needed.
4. Do not include any personal info such as: PHONE NUMBERS, ADDRESSES, FINANCIAL INFO, LIVING SITUATION, etc. in your posts. This is for safety reasons.
5. If you post a wanted you must wait 30 days before posting the same wanted again.
6. No politics, spam, money, proselytizing, personal attacks or business advertising. This includes signature lines.
7. Members cannot have Freecycle as any part of their ID or address.
8. No yard sale postings, ever. No “come and get it” type postings either.
Seems pretty simple, eh? Now that I’m official, what’s on my local list? Lots of wanteds, nothing much I can help with. So I look at the offers…
There’s an old teacher’s desk with 3 working drawers on the front, splitting veneer. A Wardrobe in “great” condition with dresser drawers. I could sure use one of those, but alas just several posts down… it’s taken. There’s a coffee table I don’t need and a puppy I sure don’t want. Two remote controls, a vacuum cleaner needing some repairs, some king size bedding and a mattress, 2 refrigerators and a stove. A rural mailbox with post, a baby gate, dog crate, 3 small chests of drawers, a kitchen table with 4 chairs, 2-drawer file cabinet, three mattress and box spring sets, some maternity and baby clothes, curtains, book bags, back packs, used books, several lunchboxes and a motorcycle. A working window air conditioner, some computer equipment, 2 ceiling fan/light units, a pair of vintage radios, bedframes and headboards, crutches and velcro braces, 6 doors plus some windows, a working dishwasher and several boxes of miscellaneous toys. Not to mention the sleeper sofa and the Jacuzzi (no pump or heater). And that was just the first 3 pages, from January 1 not quite through January 2!
I do believe I’ve found Thrifter’s Paradise!
Just last week The New York Times published about freecycling in an article entitled Unconsumption. As Steve Portigal, who founded a San Francisco freecycle group, said, “Getting something you need and getting rid of something you don’t need are both satisfying as problems solved.” Not to mention that in our consumerist society most people have way more stuff than they need, and lots of them pay money every month just to keep excess stuff in storage units where nobody’s using it at all!
If Freecycling looks like a great idea to you, check out your area’s group and start playing the give/get game!