I’m a crazy freecycling fool!

Ah, the wonders of freecycling. I’m sure most of my readers have heard of freecycling and all the problems and pleasures involved therein, but for the ancient few (just kidding Dad!) I’m going to explain a bit.

Freecycling is the distribution and acquisition of free used goods, generally through an organized network of people. It’s a mixture of the words “free” and “recycle” – and that pretty much sums up it’s purpose too. When you hear the word “freecycle,” you can safely assume they are talking about the website I linked above.

I freecycled today, but actually not through the .org site. I gave away an old cot we found in the attic to grandparents looking for someplace for their grandson to sleep besides the floor. It’s nice to have the floor space back in our garage!

I’ve given quite a bit of stuff I didn’t need or want on freecycle – from egg cartons and baby food jars to electronics we didn’t use anymore.

I’ve also gotten many things – most recently, a woman was giving away plastic window seals – the kind you use a hairdryer on – which we desperately need upstairs! I’ve also gotten baby clothes, toys, moving boxes and free appliance removal!

Craigslist has a free section too. They don’t call it freecycling on craigslist – but it is. Anytime you recycle an item that would normally get thrown away, you are freecycling.

The original intent of freecycle.org, based on what I’ve read on that site, was to allow people to give away stuff they considered rubbish – that were invaluable to others – cardboard boxes, scrap paper, egg cartons, used jars, broken appliances (think teachers and repairmen.) But you can find some pretty good stuff on there.

One man’s trash is another’s treasure, right?

The major benefit to freecycling, of course, is that not only is it good for the recipient’s budget and the giver’s trash can, but it’s reusing the item. Obvious, yes, but the implications may not be.Every product we purchase has to be made – that requires several steps:

1. First the materials for the product have to be mined, farmed, raised, grown, harvested, etc. This costs more than just money – the miners, farmers, and corporations use fuel, which reduces the world’s supply as well as adding more dangerous chemicals and excess carbon monoxide to the air. Renewable items, like trees, may take years to grow back. Ore will not renew in our lifetimes, or the lifetimes of our great-great grandchildren.
2. Next the raw materials are processed into useable forms – raw ore may be melted to purify it and then formed into sheets and rods for manufacturing. Trees are cut into boards and and cotton is cleaned of the seeds. This step also adds to the reduction of fossil fuels and adds chemicals to the air.
3. Now it’s time to make usable stuff! The materials are sent to factories, where they are made into clothes, cars, toys, and packaging. Then they are individually packaged, packaged again in larger boxes of several individual products, and then put on a pallet and wrapped in plastic. I don’t feel the need to tell you what gets taken out of the earth and put in the air and ground – you can guess!
4. Now it gets to the store, and they remove the pallet, remove the plastic, remove the cardboard boxes – much of this will get thrown in the trash, but many responsible companies will recycle or reuse most of it.
5. You buy it and take it home. You remove the outer packaging, and if you are environmental conscious, you will recycle what you can. Maybe even reuse it. But say you weren’t environmentally conscious – you’ll throw it into a white garbage bag which will go into your trash can and eventually sit in a landfill.
6. The product breaks, or you tire of it, and you throw it in the trash. You go buy another, which has already gone through the first 4 steps of our process.

But say you got that same item used somewhere – we’ve already gone through the cycle once – but that’s where it stops. After step four, there is a distinct change in what happens!

5. You buy it and take it home. Since there isn’t any packaging, you immediately put it to use. No need to unwrap or throw away, so you can use that trashcan to store rainwater (I’m just kidding – I know you’re still using it for something though.)
6. The product breaks, or you tire of it. If it’s broken, you either salvage parts for other items, offer it on freecycle for someone else to salvage, or you take it down to the metal and plastic recycling facility, where they’ll give you a few cents for it. If you tire of it, you give it to someone else who can use it, and the cycle is broken.

My challenge to you is to find ways to reuse or recycle your items. In other words – Don’t buy new!
Your wallet (and the earth) will benefit in many different ways – you will pay less for the item and have less trash. But you will also be helping by not being a part of the deadly cycle of buying new products that require new materials!