At some point, most of us have probably given away things we didn't need to friends or family members. But what should you do when you don't know anyone who wants the leftover dirt from your gardening project or your old lawnmower? One solution is to check out The Freecycle Network, an organization that encourages people to participate in a culture of giving.
Freecycle, a website founded in May of 2003 by Deron Beal of Tucson, Ariz., began when Beal wanted to donate a bed, but couldn't find any local organizations willing to accept one. Beal wanted to create a way for people to give away items that still had value, but that might otherwise end up in a landfill. To solve the problem, Beal got together a small group of friends interested in sharing the things they no longer needed, and that initial group has grown into a project that boasts 9 million members in more than 110 countries.
How It Works
Freecycle's premise is simple: users sign up online with their local Freecycle group (there are groups in over 4,900 communities around the globe) which is overseen by a local volunteer moderator. Users can post items they have that they would like to give away or things they are looking for that they hope to receive. Along with online forums, each Freecycle group has its own email group. Once a user finds someone who wants his or her offering, the parties involved can arrange a time and place for pick up.
Freecycle users can give away pretty much anything excluding items that are illegal or inappropriate for younger users. (So you'll have to find another outlet for things like alcohol or firearms.) Aside from that, Freecycle allows you to find homes for whatever you no longer have a use for. A quick search of our local Freecycle group's page in Phoenix, Ariz., reveals people are offering vacuum cleaners, building supplies and bagged compost, and they're looking for everything from an ice cream machine to a computer power cord.
In addition to helping divert landfill waste, Freecycle's mission also includes encouraging gifting, saving resources and building strong communities. They don't just want people to come to them in hopes of getting free stuff. Freecycle is about creating a culture of sharing. "If people weren’t basically good and giving, Freecycle would not work," the organization explains in a press release. "But it does indeed on a massive, and globally local, scale."
You may be wondering how much stuff is actually kept out of landfills by Freecycle. The numbers may impress you. 32,000 items are gifted and reused each day, which amounts to over one thousand tons kept out of landfills on a daily basis. Freecycle explains it another way: "The amount of items gifted in the past year is the equivalent of over thirteen times the height of Mt. Everest when stacked in garbage trucks – that’s over 700 million pounds of used items."
Each week, thousands of new members join Freecycle. 7,000 volunteers moderate local groups and keep the organization running smoothly.