Who doesn't love free stuff? The good news is more and more of it is now available, and greens have been leveraging the universal appeal of the deal on behalf of the environment. By now you may have heard of the global movement known as freecycling, in which people link up on Internet forums, giving and receiving stuff for free.
According to the moderators of the Houston freecycle board, the essence of the movement is really less about scoring swag, and more about the positive impact of reducing the amount of stuff sent to landfills -- as well as reducing the need for people to buy and consume new goods, which require new resources. Freecycle is a grassroots, volunteer-driven movement, organized around many local subgroups (many of them hosted through Yahoo! Groups.
Everything offered or asked for through Freecycling must be free, legal and appropriate for all ages. There is no selling, bartering or trading allowed, and users are not obligated, or even recommended, to necessarily hand items over on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most moderators suggest that new freecylers make their first post or two an offer, rather than a request, to show good faith in the community.
Some moderators request that all postings refer to tangible goods (no advice or personals, for example), and some discourage things like tickets and coupons, or even requests for pets. There have been flame wars over opened food and personal care products, underwear and promotional items. For example, a controversy erupted on the New York City board over whether Dunkin Donuts mugs deserved to be freecycled or used for target practice.
Pickup arrangements are entirely up to the individuals participating. It's important to join your local freecycle group, and to read that group's rules (and view past posts) before diving in.
Freecycling builds on the age-old tradition of swap meets, taking advantage of new technology. The movement officially began in 2003 with Deron Beal of Tucson. The Arizona-based nonprofit he started estimates freecylers divert around 300 tons of free stuff from landfills every day, through more than 4,000 local freecycle groups and 5 million members. (Don't forget there are other ways to share, too, as well as other sharing networks.)
What can you find through Freecycling? Practically anything! I turned up lots of funny finds on the New York City board recently. On a virtual tour around the country's boards I also found couches, tables, roof racks, lava lamps, books, vinyl, CDs, packing supplies, tools, clothes, diatomaceous earth, half-used paint cans, bags-o-fabric and bags-o-socks, pet products, theater props, Santa suits, ugly sweaters, sports equipment, hay bales, Kombucha starter, handmade buckwheat pillows, camping supplies, musical instruments, diabetes supplies and baby products galore, from Exersaucers to birth balls, bouncy sets, cribs, bumbo sets and clothes.
Although mods often caution users to avoid asking for "extravagant items," there are occasional requests for Powerbooks, Vespas, cars and more.
Here are some of the stranger things I found offered or requested by freecyclers:
U.S. Army Photo
ATL has an active freecycling community. On a recent perusal of offerings I found a "cow dish" (Grandma?), one Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor Test Stick, and a guy who asked for an 8g Apple iPhone. Good luck getting one of those free, buddy! These were my favorites, though:
Offer: i'v got a older model computer it doees work for enternet games and all [sic]
Thu Jan 22 15:08:41 2009 (#391185)
Just how old are we talking here? Old enough for the "enternet"? Does it use a system of tubes? Also, this little offer was reposted four other times, so I'm not sure those tubes are hooked up properly.
Offer: Safety 1st kiddie potty dusty, but its clean [sic]
Sun Feb 8 08:13:40 2009 (#426036)
Um, do you think you could dust it off a little bit first? Which is it, clean or dusty?
Although some don't necessarily think of the City of Angles as green, there are quite a few exciting things happening there. There are also many active freecycling Angelinos, as well as regional subgroups. I found these particularly odd:
Wanted: toy,teacup sized dog or a reagular cat [sic]
Tue May 12 21:15:40 2009 (#690729)
Um, Paris Hilton?
Wanted: 80gb iPod, cracked/broken screen OK
Sun May 3 10:08:54 2009 (#659839)
At least with that caveat this poster might have some chance of finding a donor. Still, if one doesn't mind a broken screen I'm guessing one can't afford to be too picky with the memory size .
Seattle has long been known as a pretty progressive, green place at least until you get on the roads. There are several subgroups serving the surrounding geographic area.
Tue May 5, 2009 8:06 pm (#132346)
"Axe Fresh deodorant stick. Used only once on just-showered armpits. It made my son's skin itch, but it might work for you...."
Although it's commendable that someone wouldn't want to throw something barely used away, this listing definitely has a creep-out factor. As I mentioned earlier, there has long been a debate about the safety, and good taste, of exchanging opened food and personal care products .
Wanted: Broken radio to be taken apart
"My son has started to want to see the insides of things. I would love to adopt your broken radio for a whole new life as an educational tool. However, not having a lot of time, I would love to not drive far for it. Thank you.
Sounds like a cool mom, we just hope she's supervising her son's electrical engineering.
I couldn't resist the temptation to peruse the offerings on my hometown's freecycle board. I'm not sure I'm glad I did .
Wanted: Twin or full size bed & dragon decor
May 15 01:44:39 2009 (#697328)
We had you up until the "&." Perhaps try Comic Con?
Offer: About 80 self-recorded metaphysical/healing audio tapes
Thu May 14 18:33:49 2009 (#696691)
That's a lot of self healing. I'm not sure I'm up for that much of someone else's thoughts on metaphysics.
Wanted: Non-working Frigidaire Microwave with Carousel
Wed May 13 20:59:06 2009 (#693821)
If it's "non-working," what do you want with it?
The city of Dog is also a good place to go green, and check out weird stuff .
Wanted: moped to borrow in order to learn how to ride a moped
Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:29 pm (19912)
"hi im melissa i live in hawaii kai and am really wanting to buy a moped but I need to learn how to ride one first and dont want to use a new moped to learn so would like to borrow someones moped or would like even better for the owner to teach me how to ride it. thanks in advance hope to here from you soon." [sic]
If I had a moped I don't think I'd lend it to Melissa. Just saying.
Taken: Batman Table w/ 2 folding chairs
Fri Mar 13, 2009 2:44 pm (19497)
To the Bat Table, Alfred!
America's "Second City" is a good place to find good deals on strange stuff.
Offer: Big Bag o Hair (Extensions)
Fri May 15, 2009 2:50 pm (150237)
"Bag of hair switches -- I was using them for doll hair, but I'm moving and can't take them with me. Dark brown, black, burgundy, aqua, gray. Small pieces have been snipped off some of the braids, but several are brand new in the package. Diversey/Kedzie"
Step right up and get your bags o hair!
Wanted: Boy Toys
Wed May 6, 2009 2:50 pm (149200)
"We are looking for boy toys for our 2.5 year old. He can play with anything as long as the parts are not the kind that are small and come off. Anything is appreciated Thank you. P.S. Can pick up anytime just let me know what is convenient" [sic]
We're sure your son is a nice kid, and it's perfectly cool to ask for some used toys, but did you know that "boy toy" has another common usage?
Freecycling is alive and well in one of the largest American cities (at least via landmass).
Tue Apr 21 22:56:57 2009 (#623635)
Perhaps intangibles are more acceptable as posts in Florida?
Earlier this year I took a look at the best of freecycle NYC. Here's a few highlights:
Offer: Large, headless doll body
"I have an oversized plastic doll body that is missing a head and its left arm. It stands around 33" from foot to neck. I've owned it for a while but have decided I'm too old to have a kitsch decapitated doll. It would be great for an art project."
Taken: Napoleon Dynamite Talking Action Figure (in prom suit)
This hot little number came without it's original box. But still, Napolean Frickin Dynamite people!
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