Freecycle: “Changing the World One Gift at a Time”

October 31, 2008 by  
Filed under Blog, Freecycle, Front Page, Tips

Avoid the landfill by contributing useful goods through Photo: Joe Hennager

Avoid the landfill by contributing useful goods through Photo: Joe Hennager

I’ll bet you’ve got stuff you don’t want anymore. It’s still too useful to trash or recycle, but nothing you want to keep. One good choice is to donate it to a charity group for resale. Still, there are things even Goodwill won’t take, but that others might want. How do you find a home for that half can of lavender paint or old-style television? Freecycle it.

If you’re not yet aware of Freecycle, it’s time you got acquainted. The whole point of Freecycle is landfill avoidance. Maybe you’re tired of that sweater Aunt Nellie crocheted for you, but you don’t think you could sell it (or just don’t want to bother). Freecycle gives you an alternative to trashing it.

Freecycle is actually a two-way service. You can offer something you no longer want (a bathroom scale, a skillet, or a large couch, for example). And you can ask for something you need (a double stroller for twins, canning supplies, a wrench set, etc.). All kinds of goods change hands between strangers who would otherwise never know of each other’s needs.

The main restriction is that everything must be truly free. No strings. No behind the scenes requests for money. Strings-attached transactions will get you kicked off the list in a hurry.

If you’ve never used Freecycle, you’ll want to pay attention to the rules and etiquette.

1. If you ask, offer. It’s just good manners. Let’s say you want an old lawn mower. What have you got to offer someone else? Maybe you’ve got a tree full of apples that would make great pies. It’s unlikely that the person with an old lawn mower to give will be the same person who wants your apples. That’s okay. The theory is, what goes around comes around — eventually. Everyone who participates gets multiple opportunities to give and get.

2. Be polite. Don’t forget the pleases and thank-yous that your parents taught you. If you’re rude, you stand to be blackballed by individuals you’ve offended — not necessarily by the list as a whole, but don’t count on getting any freebies from a person you’ve insulted.

3. Be entertaining. People who offer things may get dozens of responses. If yours is the most entertaining or sincere, the person with the goodies to give may decide to give the item to you. So make ’em laugh. Or try a little heartfelt poem. What’ve you got to lose?

4. Be honest. If that vaporizer you’re offering is missing a piece, make sure you say so. Someone else may need the parts that you’ve got. But don’t try to fool anyone into thinking you’re giving away a perfect gem, if, in fact, it’s not.

5. Follow the rules. Freecycle has specific guidelines about what can and cannot be posted. No pornography, no guns, no medicines, no alcohol, no tobacco. There are a few more “nos.” Check them out before you offer anything that might be questionable.

6. Be careful. Sadly, not every environmentally minded individual is trustworthy. You probably won’t know the people you contact through Freecycle. Consider making the exchange in a public place. Or leave the items on your porch for pickup. Don’t tell anyone that you won’t be home at a certain time. Safety first. Always.

So, don’t hang onto those Halloween costumes that no longer fit, the roller blades sitting in your garage gathering dust, even that twin bed your kids left behind when they went to college. Sign up for Freecycle and let someone else enjoy your castoffs. You’ll get the double benefit of making someone else’s day and clearing a path in your home or garage.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)