What Is Freecycle.org?

What is Freecycle.org?

The Freecycle Network is made up of nearly 5,000 member groups with over six and a half million members around the world. It is a grassroots nonprofit ecological movement made up of people who are giving and receiving free stuff right in their own communities. The purpose of freecycle.org is to encourage people to reuse things they may throw away — or as the website puts it, to “keep good stuff out of landfills”.

Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer. Membership is free.

To sign up, find your community on freecycle.org or browse through their various groups with their easy to use “Browse Groups” options on the mainpage.

Their mission statement breaks down the group’s goal better than I ever could: “”Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.”

By calling the recycling of used goods “gifting”, the owners of freecycle.org have effectively rebranded the re-use movement. When some people think of recycling, they think of dumpster diving hippies with dreadlocks and hummus breath — but if you call it “gifting”, you’re taking the stigma out of saving the Earth.

I’ve just recently freecycled for the first time. After a move, I found myself with an extra metal bed frame — you know the type, the cheap metal frame with wheels that simply won’t fit anywhere in your apartment. I wanted rid of the thing, but I didn’t want to toss all that metal into the trash or attempt to “recycle” it at one of the scrap metal centers in town. So through freecycle I found a college student who just recently moved out of the dorm and needed a bed frame. In exchange, I took his old bicycle off his hands. While it isn’t a brand new bike, it gets me where I need to go, and at zero cost. This kind of exchange is perfect for such a massive consumerist culture

Freecycle.org started out as a project of an organization called RISE Incorporated, a nonprofit corporation, to promote waste reduction in Tucson, Arizona. In fact, Freecycle.org is still registered as an Arizona non profit. RISE subsequently handed it over to the project leader, Deron Beal, who happens to be a distant relative of mine. Beal set up the first Freecycle e-mail group for the citizens of Tucson. The concept has since spread to over 85 countries, with thousands of local groups and millions of members.

Each local group currently exists on Yahoo Groups as a mailing list. Volunteer moderators keep things kosher, reflecting the volunteer spirit of freecycle.otg. The Freecycle Network, known as TFN, encourages the formation of new groups, which are of course subject to approval by people known as “regional New Group Approvers” or NGAs.

Groups approved by TFN are then listed at the official website. They have the benefit of using the TFN name and logo, and are subject to rules enforced by a structure of global and regional Group Outreach Assistance volunteers. As you can tell, TFN is well organized.

TFN originally planned to move a custom designed, centralized site in 2004, but the project moved very slowly, mostly because of a shortage of skilled volunteer labor. By the year 2008, Freecycle went live with a beta version of a centralized, custom site at freecycle.org. As of May 2009, all new groups must be started on www.Freecycle.org’s new group system. This system gives TFN a massive amount of control over the individual groups. TFN is run much like a commune or a government organization. Moderators of existing Yahoo groups have the choice of remaining on Yahoo groups or moving their groups to the freecycle.org site. There doesn’t seem to be much benefit to staying at Yahoo groups, considering the centralized location at freecycle and the huge amount of traffic there.

TFN has since grown rapidly into a global organization of over four thousand local chapters, and first passed the 2 million member mark in February 2006. The original idea of TFN has been copied and altered by hundreds of similar groups around the world, much to the delight of the founders of TFN.

If you’re looking to get rid of a piece of furniture, electrical equipment, or even a large number of cardboard boxes, consider “gifting” these items through Freecycle.org. You’ll be doing your community and your plant a huge favor.

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