Having two children has awakened a powerful desire in me, one that I have never experienced before: the need to be organized. And in the wake of that has come a massive need to clean and purge my house of excess.
With things like clothing, I normally just donate, but in my zeal to clean I came across some odd items, like some candy corn Halloween lights that had been pawned off on me, which I was probably never going to use. Rather than discard these items, I decided to post them on my local Freecycle group.
Freecycle is a grassroots, nonprofit network that is based on the concept of neighbors helping each other out, and keeping good items out of landfills. Founded in 2003 by Deron Beal, it started in Arizona where Deron worked for a nonprofit organization called RISE, which provided recycling services in Tucson, as well as transitional employment for those in need. When they came across perfectly good items that still had life in them, the members of RISE began calling other nonprofits around the area to see if they wanted some of these items. This lead to Beal setting up the first Freecycle email group—and thus, the Freecycle network was born.
The Freecycle concept has spread considerably in the nine years since it started, and is now in over 85 countries. There are more than 5,000 groups, with nearly nine million members worldwide. They estimate that they keep over 500 tons of garbage per day out of landfills, which is incredible.
I love Freecycle. It has engendered in me a new sense of community and I love helping others out. Since I joined, I have given away maternity clothing to a mom in need, cloth diapers to a family expecting their first child, formula samples, and those hideous candy corn Halloween lights to someone who appreciates them far more than I did. I also managed to score a beautiful toy chest for my sons from another Freecycler, and I can’t wait to paint it and put it in their room.
Another great thing about Freecycle is if you have food that is expiring and you know you aren’t going to have time to use it, you can post on the network and maybe even help out someone in need. A girlfriend of mine recently shared with me that she had a very grateful recipient of some canned and frozen food, a man who was a few days away from a paycheck and really appreciated the food.
Freecycle really is changing the world—one gift at a time.