An Ode to Freecycle

By Liesl Clark

This week I freecycled 4 things that equalled about 350 lbs of stuff. And I acquired 40 raspberry canes for my garden. The items I got rid of were ready for a new home and all I had to do was put them out by my front door.

A Toddler Swing Was Ready For a New Home, So We Freecycled It. Photo © Liesl Clark

A Toddler Swing Was Ready For a New Home, So We Freecycled It. Photo © Liesl Clark

The items I acquire are ones I truly need or am planning on buying. And free is my favorite color.

The idea of someone coming to my home to pick up stuff I no longer need is very appealing. I even once freecycled cement blocks off my property. The person came and hefted the pile into their truck. Done.

We saved stone tiles from a deconstruction project in our home, and today a Freecycler will pick them up for use as stepping stones on a garden path. Photo © Liesl Clark

We saved stone tiles from a deconstruction project in our home, and today a Freecycler will pick them up for use as stepping stones on a garden path. Photo © Liesl Clark

For a busy mother who works full time, the ability to downsize so easily has changed my thinking about so many things. Freecycle is the ultimate tool for promoting a circular economy, where “free” is the motivator behind people keeping their things in good-enough condition to pass on or even acquire new items they’d rather not buy.

We acquired this groovy bunkbed through Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

We acquired this groovy bunkbed through Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

So, what is Freecycle? Here’s what Freecycle.org has to say about themselves: “The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,085 groups with 9,338,266 members across the globe. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit group of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills.”

Offloaded this week: A perfectly good child's PFD. We bought it 4 years ago for $70 and are now giving it away for free. It's easy, hassle-free. Photo © Liesl Clark

Offloaded this week: A perfectly good child’s PFD. We bought it 4 years ago for $70 and are now giving it away for free. It’s easy, hassle-free. I even know my neighbor who came and got it. She sent a nice thankyou by email after picking it up. I like connecting with people on Freecycle. It’s a human endeavor. Photo © Liesl Clark

We live on an island, so Freecycle here makes a lot of sense. Our space feels finite and it’s easy to figure out the various neighborhoods quickly. On Freecycle, you need to define which neighborhood you’re in so a person can calculate the carbon footprint of whether it’s truly worth driving to get that item for free.

Yesterday an islander picked up this stash of plastic plant pots and trays. They're doing a large seedling/planting project and were so thankful for these pots they sent a thankyou afterwords. I love Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

Yesterday an islander picked up this stash of plastic plant pots and trays. They’re doing a large seedling/planting project and were so thankful for these pots they sent a thankyou afterwords. I love Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

Our Freecycle community has 2,185 members. When something is posted that’s popular (say, a working laptop) it’ll likely be taken within seconds. All you have to do is respond to the person who posted their “offer.” That person can decide who to give their item to. When I post an item, I usually go with the first responder who wants it. That seems fair. But if that person doesn’t come to pick the item up within a day or so, I’ll move down the list of responders and notify the next person. It’s always good to accrue a few takers before posting that your item is “taken,” just in case you end up with a flaky freecycler.

What have I acquired on Freecycle? Here’s a list of my favorites:

A Microwave

A Gass-less Lawn Mower

3 Composters

A Rain Barrel

A Girl’s Bike

Children’s Books

A Dollhouse

Perennials

Firewood

A Worm Bin

A Bunk Bed

My only rule is, however, that I have to pass on more than I acquire. I’ve Freecycled hundreds of items.

My prized worm bin, acquired through Freecycle. Our wormies have been creating "black gold" for us for the past 5 years. This acquisition was worth it. Photo © Liesl Clark

My prized worm bin, acquired through Freecycle. Our wormies have been creating “black gold” for us for the past 5 years. This acquisition was worth it. Photo © Liesl Clark

But the greatest benefit of Freecycle is connecting with your neighbors. Freecycle is how I met one of my favorite people in the world, Rebecca Rockefeller, my partner in crime here at Trash Backwards. I’d post something and she’d want it. She’d post something and I’d want it. So, we found we had similar tastes and children of similar age.  A great friendship was launched.

Freecycle is what brought this friendship together, the origins of Trash Backwards, with our children always at play in the background. Photo: David Dale Campbell

Freecycle is what brought this friendship together, the origins of Trash Backwards, with our children always at play in the background. Photo: David Dale Campbell

So beyond the material gain or loss Freecycle might bring you, it’s truly a network of real people, connected together geographically through our stuff. It’s a modern e-trade route, of sorts, locally centralized, weaving neighbors more tightly together who understand that there are resources in the things we’d typically throw away. What you don’t want, someone else needs.

This week, I’ll admit, we acquired, dare I say, a bag full of totally-new boys’ underwear for our 9-year-old. Gros? Not at all. They had never been worn and we were headed out the door anyway to buy a few since undies were needed. It saved us a trip to the store.

You might be surprised at the items posted on Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

You might be surprised at the items posted on Freecycle. Photo © Liesl Clark

Convinced about the benefits of Freecycle? Then find the Freecycle group nearest you.

And if you don’t have a Freecycle network in your area, consider starting your own. Here’s the page at Freecycle.org that’ll get you started. I helped start a Freecycle group in my parents’ home community which is all the way on the other side of the country. They live in MA, we live in WA. My mother is the moderator there and they’re slowly building up membership. She even met a cool neighbor over a partially-used tube of glue.

If you’ve been waiting for something to come up on Freecycle that you really want (like a worm bin), you can always make your own. Visit our Trash Backwards app where you can input any item and likely find a way to make it. You’ll also find sustainable ways to get rid of it, reuse it, gift it, and upcycle it. We’d love for you to give our app a try:

Click Through For DIY Worm Bin Ideas at Trash Backwards

Click Through For DIY Worm Bin Ideas at Trash Backwards

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Categories: Reduce Your Use, Think About It, Trash Philanthropy, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff

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8 Comments on “An Ode to Freecycle”

  1. Jenny C
    March 13, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Liesel – I was reading along happily then got an extra jolt of goodness when I saw the worm composter which I think I Freecycled to you years ago! A few weeks ago I received through Freecycle some block styrofoam for large planters (idea from Trash Backwards), then shared with the giver info about Bay Hay’s recycling effort. It’s a great community!

  2. March 13, 2013 at 8:26 am #

    Hi Jenny! Of course I remember going to your house and connecting over the worm farm and our kids, too. I do love that stackable bin. Finn and I were just “harvesting” from it this weekend to give fertilizer to our Freecycle-bonus raspberry canes. It all boils down to Freecycle somehow. So glad you diverted some styro, too. We do live in a great community that embraces the wonder of Freecycle.

  3. March 13, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    I lived in a house that broke up several years ago and in two days everything I could not move with me (tons of things) were gone thanks to Freecycle. Someone had a great place for everything from feathers, to old shoes, and tubs, and metal buckets, to my furniture that went to a family just given a section 8 home after a year of homeless living. I used them because the Junk Haulers were going to charge me five hundred dollars to haul it off and they would not even recycle most of it. Thank you Rebecca Rockefeller for alerting me to this wonderful resource.

  4. March 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    I love Freecycle! Even thought it’s not the name of the game, sometimes people loan items for a party or a camping trip. It’s lovely getting to know people as you visit them over and over! And then to see them out and about. I’ve got from freecycle – two semi working washing machines, a wine rack, a recycling bin – really the list is too long to remember all the items! In return, my family and I have shared tiki torches, glass sliding doors, excess tiles, cosmetics, clothing, bokashi waste etc etc. It really is amazing what is snapped up!

  5. March 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I too love freecycle, there aren’t many people in my town that use it, but I do post items and watch for something I need. It’s not as flaky as the responses I get from Craigslist either.

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