Goshen News, Goshen, IN

February 20, 2013

Cut the clutter, help the planet by 'freecycling'

By Daryl Nelson
ConsumerAffairs.com

— With spring cleaning around the corner, it's a good time to consider options for disposing of unneeded clutter. Typical venues include yard sales and donations to thrift stores, but many are people trying the alternative of "freecycling."

Sites like FreeSharing.org and Freecycle.org help users get rid of their stuff, and use the theory that one person’s trash is another person’s new couch, TV or baby stroller.

FreeSharing

The creators of FreeSharing.org say its main goal is to keep items out of landfills. It uses over 900 groups in local communities across the United States, Canada and other parts of the globe, to place items that are still in decent shape in the hands of people who really need them.

The concept of free sharing or "freecycling" isn’t a new one, but FreeSharing.org has made the practice much easier for people by pooling local recycling groups that do things like manage the item exchange between you and the person you’re donating to. They can also tell you who needs what items in the communities they work in.

A lot of current users believe donating items through a recycling group in their area is better than blindly giving items away to the Salvation Army or similar organizations.

FreeSharing.org doesn’t actually organize the sharing for you or help you give items away. It instead serves as an Internet hub that connects users to local sharing companies that all have a dual mission to better the environment and place items with people who have a specific need.

For example, if you have an old coffee table that you no longer need, FreeSharing.org doesn’t want you to just leave it on your curb for the garbage man or for the neighborhood to grab up. Instead it wants you to use a little more strategy when getting rid of your items to not only help the environment but also to help someone who may not be able to afford an expensive item at that specific moment.

Some of the other freecycling or sharing sites include FreeUse.org, StagaNetwork.com, FreeMesa.com, Around Again, Worldwide Free Share and countless others. As with any other site where communicating with strangers is a possibility, users are encouraged to follow all of the usual safety measures including not revealing personal information and being extra careful if you decide to meet with a person to exchange an item.

Freecycle.org

Probably considered the granddaddy of the sharing sites is Freecycle.org with a presence in over 85 countries around the globe. The site also works with thousands of community groups and the number of users in the Freecylce network is reportedly in the millions.

Local groups must be part of a Yahoo group or use the company’s software to participate in sharing, which some groups don’t like, but many believe having access to Freecycle’s vast network makes following that particular rule far worth it.

However, if you’re part of a recycling group in your area and don’t want to use Yahoo or Freecycle’s software, other recycling sites like FreeSharing.com may be a better fit for you.

The website ReUseItNework.org is another recycling hub that places items with the people that need them, and unlike similar sites, the creators tell users that your items don’t have to be in perfect condition as many who use the site like to repair things and are aware items may not be in the best condition.

The ReUseIt site essentially has a global network and works in a way similar to the other recycling sites, as it’s mainly a hub for local recyclers to join or for people to exchange items for free.

And of course a lot of people don’t just donate on these kinds of sites, they also use them to get free stuff that they may need or want. As with anytime you buy or receive something used, you always take on the risk of the item being a piece of junk, which some people who have used these types of sites have complained about.

Overall, the concept of freecycling or freesharing is a good one, with its environmental benefits and assistance to people who may not be able to ordinarily afford certain items.

And most of all, people can finally get a chance to clean out some of the clutter they’ve been hanging on to.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.