Thursday, August 8, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, FREEcycle

By now most people have heard the phrase, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."  I have tweaked the phrase to be, "Reduce, Reuse, FREEcycle."  For anybody unaware of what "Freecycle" is or how it works, read on...

Freecycle is a worldwide, (truly) non-profit, movement of people giving & getting items for FREE... yes, F-R-E-E!!  Imagine wanting to clear something out because you no longer have a use for it, but you don't want to just put it to the curb for the garbage collectors to take up valuable space in a landfill... something that you know could be of use to someone, you just don't know exactly who or you know you don't want it sitting in a donation heap in a Goodwill Store back room, Salvation Army Store (we have seen MANY items get ruined at a particular Salvation Army store because they would just leave the donations OUTSIDE in their parking lot with no protection at all), etc...  I'd rather give an item away for free with no tax write off & have someone actually USE it, than have it get needlessly ruined & thrown in the garbage... enter FREECYCLE!! 

With Freecycle, you find a group near you via by entering the name of your city/town & state in the search box.  Then the screen with search results will list any possible groups based upon the search parameters of the city/town & state information you entered.  You then click on the link for the group nearest you & find out what their process is.

Some groups run their posting of items via a Yahoo group, that is only open to members for that specific Freecycle group.  The moderators are generally very protective to prevent spammers & scammers, and they take their role as moderator volunteers very seriously.  You do NOT have to log directly into Yahoo to post or receive the posts... you can do both right from your email inbox, so no extra effort necessary, unless you WANT to do it directly via Yahoo! 

Some towns/cities are too small to have their own group, so people may look to join a group for a neighboring town(s).  Some groups may even be for an entire county if one lives in a rural area.  In general, if you live in or near a town/city that is more densely populated, there will most likely be a local group or at least one in your area. 

Once you are approved to join a group you will be allowed to post a "wanted" or "offer" post (or some of each).  In general, you are allowed to post a "wanted" post 1 x a month for a specific item, so say August 10th you request a backpack, then September 10th (or after) you can post another request for a backpack.  You can post requests for other items, just not more than 1x a month for that one item/ item type.

Also, you can place as many "offers" as you want & you can do the items individually in separate emails.

Here is an example of a post I may write if I had a keyboard to offer:

Email subject line: 

OFFER: 1 keyboard in My Town  

Body of email:

I have 1 keyboard to offer.  Works well.

Please respond with pick up day & 2 hour time frame.

Near 5th & Main St (name an intersection near you to give people an idea if you would be too far away from them... it sure helps to avoid no-shows from people discovering you are 45 minutes away from them once they do an address search for distance).

Sorry, no deliveries, phone calls, or texts (I put this, you don't have to, of course).

Easy porch pick up (or driveway, etc.)!

Thank you!

You can also offer everything in one email (OFFER: keyboard, mouse, & note pads) & can say that people have to take one item, some, or all of them, etc.  You can even offer them as a combined group (OFFER: Office supplies/computer supplies).  There is really not a right or wrong way to post... people WILL see the posts & they WILL respond.

I do make a notation in my posts that I need a day & 2 hours time frame for pick up, that I don't make phone calls, deliveries, or texts.  Yeah, REALLY... you would be amazed how many people will ask you to call them... not to be mean, but uhm, I do not KNOW you, nor do I have time to play phone tag.

I have also had to request a POLITE response before if I have gotten a bunch of rude responses.  Sad to say, but people can be so rude... "I want it" or "I'll take it"...  No "please", no "thank you", no MANNERS at all!!

In general I have had very good experiences over the years or else I wouldn't still be participating some 10 + years later, but there are some people that will blow you away, so I feel the need to forewarn you.  I want to don't get any emails later from my readers asking why I didn't warn you! LOL  If someone is really rude, I just delete their response & may even mark their email address as spam so as not to have to deal with them again.  I have had to do that 2 times when I have had 2 people who would repeatedly request items & then not show up.  Me, being the nice mama I am, I would give them multiple chances because everybody makes mistakes, life happens, etc. but after someone does that repeatedly, it is really a nuisance.  If someone gets out of hand & threatens you (which I have actually heard of once recently), etc. then you need to contact a moderator for your local group & they may ban them, send you to the authorities, etc.

The general Freecycle rules are that you can give away anything that is NOT garbage & has life left in it.  You CAN give away something broken (you'd be surprised how many people will take something for parts, to try & fix, etc.), but you should always disclose that.  You may have something that has been stored & it worked when put in storage, but you aren't 100% sure now as you have no way to test it (or no time to test it, etc.), so just say that...
OFFER: computer keyboard in Your Town/City

I have a computer keyboard to offer.  It worked when put in storage 3 years ago, but I have no way to test it again now. 

You'd be amazed @ how many people may respond for something.  There are times when nobody will respond, which can just be due to the time it was posted at (that depends upon the time the moderators are able to approve & pass your post through to the group members) or it can be an item with no interest, which is pretty rare.  I've both seen & offered appliances, clothing, furniture, food, mattresses, electronics, boxes for moving/shipping, toys, empty jars &/or bottles, etc.  The possibilities are pretty endless with the exception of weapons, medicine, herbs, & a few other prohibited item categories.

Freecycle is explained as kind of like giving a gift to someone.  There is no right way to choose someone to give the item(s) to.  You can pick based upon who can pick up soonest, who replies the nicest, or based upon whatever you want to.  Some posts will say they prefer a pick up that day, a specific day and/or a specific time, or they ask for YOU to say when you can pick up.  When responding to a post be sure to provide all of the requested information from the person offering. 

Some Freecycle groups will allow you to add some fluff to a post, whether an "offer" or "wanted" & some will only allow very short posts.

Example with fluff:  

WANTED: kitchen items

I am looking for kitchen items for a friend who just lost her home (or job, etc.).  She can use pretty much anything for a kitchen.  

Without fluff:

WANTED: kitchen items

I am looking for kitchen items.

I admit that sometimes it is extra helpful to me to know what someone is looking for/ needs.  In a group I was in before moving to where we live now, they allowed posts with fluff, & I saw some requests for people who lost their place of living to fire, death, etc.  If someone lost everything due to a fire, they can obviously use tons of things & will probably not care much about style, color, etc. of something, or at least not while they are trying to gather things from the ground up.  Whereas someone looking to spruce things up a bit will probably have something more specific in mind as far as color, style, etc.  I gave several boxes of items to a fire victim & her family... things that may not have been super stylish (sheets, towels, etc.) but the recipients were so grateful to receive them and they didn't care about the colors, etc.   They just wanted some of the basics so they could put their lives back together ASAP.

Oh, something else to keep in mind is that if something is dusty, rusty, etc. it can still be offered, just disclose that said item needs a washing, has some rust, etc. so people know what to expect.  You are also able to upload item pictures, so if you have the ability to upload pictures that will also usually help you to get a lot of responses.

For ME to add pictures I have to take them with my camera, copy them to my computer from my camera card, & then upload them to my local Freecycle group site.  It is a painstaking process since I don't have a cell phone I can easily take & upload pictures with, so I usually don't post them unless I think someone really needs a picture. Oh, & no posting links to something, not even to show what the item is.  Instead you can mention in your post...  if you search for "whatever said item is" on Google, Amazon, etc. you can see what it does, what it looks like, etc. but no including any links.

When I post an item or items, I will usually let someone take 1, some, or all.  Even if someone wants to sell said them/s, I feel that, while some feel it may not be right to take it to sell it when someone else may want it to actually USE it, I am not going to worry about it.  I see it as a gift is a gift, no matter what they do with it... & a part of me feels like if they need the money that bad to sell whatever it is, then so be it.

When I place an "offer" post I do not give out the pickup location (which is usually my home) until I feel pretty certain someone is actually going to show up.  If they respond & say they want an item, I will then respond & say whether it is available or not.  If it is available & they say they want it, I will ask the day & time for pickup, if they didn't already provide that.  If they did, I will respond that they can have said item & can come at the day/time they requested.  AFTER they respond & say they will be coming, THEN I give out the address.   

If you post a "wanted" post & have received what you are looking for, you should then post a "RECEIVED" post that can be something simple like:

RECEIVED: soccer ball

I received a soccer ball.  

Thank you!

That way people who are going through emails/posts will know that you received what you needed.  I have actually had someone contact me about a post 2 weeks later to see if I was still in need for an item, which I was, & it was such a blessing to receive that item! 

If you offered something & it is promised or has been picked up, then post something like:

TAKEN: Computer Keyboard

The keyboard has been taken.  

Thank you!

It is is taken pending a future pick up you can say something like the following, or you can just wait to post until AFTER it has been picked up:

TAKEN: Computer Keyboard

The keyboard has been taken PPU.  

Thank you!

If they happen to not show up, then you can do a re-offer:

RE-OFFER: Computer Keyboard

I have a keyboard to offer due to a no show.  

Thank you! 

The idea of posting the item is gone is that it will hopefully stop people from emailing you wanting whatever said item is.  The sooner you post, the sooner it will stop the subsequent emails.  I usually keep a few email responses until said item is picked up, because if the original requester does happen to not show up, then I can email the next in line.

Again, there is no perfect way to do things.  Each group varies with what they will allow or not (like the further details as to why you want something, who it is for, etc.), so you just need to follow what your own group allows or doesn't  Overall, the basic protocol for each group is very similar to what I have described though.

I have actually met a few people whom I have become friends with over the years after multiple exchanges, so Freecycle can also do more than find a new home for tangible goods, it can also help facilitate friendships.  We have a Freecycle buddy, as we call her, whom has blessed our family with yarn, craft supplies, books, etc. over the past couple of years.  So recently one of my children made a craft for her & I made a sugar scrub for her hands & face to go along with it.  We wanted to say "thank you" & to hopefully bless her, as she has us.

We LOVE Freecycle & we hope YOU do too!!

Are YOU a member of a local Freecycle group??  Have YOU ever posted things on Freecycle??  have YOU ever received an item from Freecycle??  If not, are you going to give it a try??  Go ahead, you know you want to!!