Toward a More Sustainable Cedar Mill
Got stuff? Freecycle it!
by Virginia Bruce
The next time you clean out a cupboard, or try to clear some space in your garage, consider getting rid of your junk (another person’s treasure, after all) through a wonderful web-based service called Freecycle. On the flip side, do you need something (probably used) that someone might have stashed away? Just ask.
The Freecycle Network is a Yahoo Group consisting of 4,760 local groups with 6,789,362 members across the globe. The local group in Washington County has been going since 2003. Ronald Fabricante, the group owner, took over from Kathy Cruz who started the local group. The Washington County group has several moderators who share the task of approving each message before it appears on the site or shows up in your inbox, so you don’t get spam or offers for inappropriate items.
When you join the group you can choose to get every posting in your inbox as they are approved, or to get a digest a few times a day, or to simply read the postings on the site. When you sign up, and periodically thereafter, you will receive guidelines on how the system works and what the etiquette is.
The subject line for each listing should include whether you want something or are offering something, a description of the item, and your rough location. After all, it might not be worth a trip to Forest Grove to get that bag of extra diapers. Once something is taken, you post a “received” or “taken” message so others don’t get their hopes up.
The guidelines say, “Our goal is to keep usable items out of the landfill. By using what we already have on this earth, we reduce consumerism, manufacture fewer goods, and lessen the impact on the earth. Another benefit of using the Freecycle list is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need. Many of us have cluttered closets and garages filled with items that are ‘too good to throw away.’ We hang onto stuff because ‘somebody could use that.’ Free your inner packrat!”
Sometimes it’s just too much trouble to have a garage sale, or sell things on Craigslist. And it’s wonderful to know that your gift is going to someone who can really use it. Posters rarely even bother to include photos of their offers. And sometimes items that don’t work out are re-freecycled. You often see the suggestion, “Must take all, freecycle what you can’t use.”
Part of the beauty of the system is that the receiver generally comes to pick up the item, no matter how large or small. So not only does it not have to go to the dump, you just set up a time and someone comes and gets it. Some posters just put the item out on their porch or driveway so they don’t even have to be home when the receiver picks it up.
About the only problem anyone runs into is with people who don’t pick things up after they promise to. But often you’ll get backup “takers” and you can contact one of them. Guidelines simply urge reasonable caution when offering things, but Fabricante doesn’t recall ever getting complaints about serious problems.
Moderator Lori Buckner recalls that someone once gave away a car—it needed a new exhaust system. She got an electric wheelchair that just needed a new battery. The strangest thing she recalls was a backyard full of Elephant garlic!
People post everything from scrap metal and recyclable cans to furniture, appliances, home décor, clothing for kids and grownups, auto parts, power tools—some working, some not. Not everything gets taken, and you’re free to re-post an item if it doesn’t get any interest after a few days. I was able to recycle a whole yard full of scrap lumber—several people came and hauled it away to dry out for next winters’ firewood. I also gave away a lot of catnip plants that just sprouted up in my garden.
To get in on all the goodness, go to freecycle.org and type Washington County, Oregon into the search box. You’ll need a free Yahoo account to join, but that’s easy to accomplish and carries no penalty of unwanted email or other unpleasant consequences.