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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Gass-less Lawn Mower
A Rain Barrel
A Girl’s Bike
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.
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.
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.
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: