November 04, 2004

Recycle? Freecycle!

I got this article from a newsletter I subscribe to, Tip of the Day by Bob Osgoodby. I really like this concept. Something we do in Seoul amoung the comings and goings of expats. But I'll be checking this out:

The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman


Gary - I found a website that you will love. It's called
Freecycling. People post stuff they don't want, other people
contact them to get it. It started in Tucson in 2003, I think,
and there are now groups all over the world. I'm in Cincinnati
our group has 3,000 members. Please check this out - this is the
ultimate in frugal living!
Mary Lynne


Mary Lynne is right. She's onto something that a lot of people
would find interesting.

The website describes the project this way:
"Freecycle is a project of RISE, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit
organization whose mission includes reducing the amount of waste
sent to landfills and fostering cooperation between other
nonprofit organizations and the public."

It works fairly simply. People join a list of freecyclers in
their city. When they're ready to dispose of an item or looking
for something they send an email that goes out to the entire
list. If you have an interest you contact the original poster and
make arrangements to exchange the item. No money changes hands.

The freecycle site will allow you to look for a group in your
city. If you don't find one, the site will give you step-by-step
instructions on getting one started.

The site claims that just under 600,000 people are part of the
groups. They're not limited to the U.S. but can be found
worldwide. Twenty five different countries are shown on the list
of international participants. They range all the way from
Brisbane, Australia with nearly 500 members to a number of cities
that have one lone member trying to get things up and running.

Portland has the largest group with over 11,000 members. The 2002
census put Portland's population at 538,000. So clearly it's an
idea that's caught on there!

Nonprofit organizations are encouraged to use Freecycle to get
things that their clients need. Members are requested to give
priority to nonprofits if more than one person wants their item.

So how does it work from a practical aspect? I joined about two
months ago. Our list has 600 members in a city of about 50,000.
To avoid a lot of email I chose to use the 'digest' mode. That
means that I get one email each day that includes all the
individual emails to the list over the last 24 hours. I could
also have chosen to not get any emails and used the webpage to
view postings.

A couple of things are important to the program. Everything
offered must be free. Lists are monitored and they claim to
maintain a '2 strikes and you're out' philosophy. That means that
if you break the rules once, they'll assume you didn't know and
warn you. But, if you break them a second time you'll be banned
from the group. Our group seems to be controversy free, but the
moderator has included a reminder of the rules once or twice.

One weakness that I've noticed is that there seems to be a lot of
'wanted' postings. And, while that could trigger someone to clean
out a closet, my experience is that rarely seems to happen.

A second weakness is that the size of the group is both an
advantage and disadvantage at the same time. A larger group will
have more items available and more people who could be interested
in an item. But, as a group gets larger the amount of mail it
generates also increases.

Giving items away seems to work well. I tried it with some
household items and it worked without a flaw. One posting
elicited two email responses. I connected with one by phone and
they came and picked up the items the same day.

Like most projects, the biggest trick is to get it started. A
group with a very few members will have a difficult time finding
matches between those offering and people wanting goods. Probably
100 or more members are needed for a well functioning group.

One thing leading to the success of Freecycle is that it is free.
There are no dues to belong to the group. You only risk a few
moments of your time to try it out.

The project appears to be very much a grass-roots effort. The webpage doesn't have a 'contact us' link. So beyond
the initial instructions on how to form and group and get the
computer list running, you're pretty much on your own.

Take Mary Lynne's advice. If you like recycling and getting the
most for your money, you should check out At the
very least you'll have an interesting, free experience in how the
internet is impacting our world.


Gary Foreman has worked as a Certified Financial Planner and
currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website
You'll find hundreds of free articles to help you save time and
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