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Friday, January 22, 2010

Freecycle - Helping Givers and Takers Stay Frugal and Go Green

It amazes me that more people don't know about Freecycle. If you're one of them, let me introduce you. Freecycle is an on-line recycling organization that is now world-wide. The system is simple. People with things to give away post their offerings on the website. And those who want things, pick up the items.

I discovered Freecycle about five years ago when there was a write-up about the Bucks County group in our local paper. That first year I gave away a treadmill and a rowing machine, two boxes of graduation party invitations that were deemed by family members as too ugly to send, two large Boston ferns that lived outside and were about to be frosted, and a very old Mac laptop computer. Since then, I've given fellow Freecyclers more computer stuff, a kitchen table, fax machine, soccer balls, cracked dishes (for an art project), backpacks,  a devil costume and witch hat, sports gear, old wooden shelves, several bags of kid's clothes, some Christmas decorations and other stuff that I can't recollect.

I've also been on the receiving end. Last summer I posted that I was looking for some hostas (for you non-gardeners, hostas are beautiful shade-loving plants grown mostly for their interesting foliage - I'm a big fan). I got two responses, and as luck would have it, they were located about 10 minutes from each other, and only about a twenty-minute drive from me.

When I arrived at the first "giver," I was pointed in the direction of the hostas and told to have at them. I had been instructed to bring my own spade so I was prepared. After about an hour of digging, I had some 20 small hostas, along with a few stray sedums. At the next stop, the man who answered the door took my spade and did the digging for me. The hostas were in four gigantic clumps that I might not have been able to wrestle into the car without his help. After the two stops, the trunk of my car was full and the back seat was loaded too. Later, when I planted the hostas in my garden, I did a  guestimate of their value.  I believe these gorgeous second-hand plants would have sold for a total of
about $250 in a retail garden center. Seriously. 

Some of my other Freecycle scores include a couple of belts that I passed on to someone else; a pair of wood breakfast bar chairs that I planned to use for staging listings but had no room to store (I subsequently sold them for $20); a pair of brand new clogs with sheerling lining (I'm wearing them as I type) and a pair of floor lamps. I was offered a food dehydrator, and a collection of men's ties I thought about using for a project, but both pick ups were too far away to be practical.

In my area there are Freecycle organizations in Bucks County,  Doylestown, Princeton and Hunterdon County. I looked for, and found one in Falmouth where my family has a summer home.  Turns out it's in Falmouth, England!

If you have stuff in your closets, garage, basement or shed that you no longer need, think about posting it on Freecycle. For those who are nervous about strangers coming to their homes, arrange for pick ups at your office or at busy places like shopping center parking lots. Most people just leave things on their porch or at the end of the driveway.

Some people will post that they will put all the leftovers from a garage sale or flea market out on the curb at a certain time. Often a number of Freecyclers will stop by to pick through the stuff. It usually results in far fewer items to haul off to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

Freecycle puts goods into the hands of people who want or need them and keeps lots of stuff out of landfills. If you haven't tried it already, I hope you will soon.

What kinds of items have you given away or recieved through Freecycle? Please share.

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