Posted by: hightides | June 6, 2010


Once upon a time you could go to the town dump and along the edges there would be furniture, appliances, books, dishes, and other things that were still serviceable, but weren’t needed by their owners. You could shop these castoffs and take home free treasures to be used at your house.

Then came home pickup of trash, so those treasures were put on on garbage night along with the sacks of potato peels and paper plates. You could slowly drive down the streets shopping for reuseable treasures — old chairs, shovels with half a handle, wooden crates, empty buckets — and take them home to live another life with you.

Now trash has to fit in a big plastic bag. Grandma’s broken chair and Little Sally’s rocking horse can’t go in the weekly bins. Things are either transported to the thrift shop or sneaked into some company’s Dumpster instead of placed in public view for someone else to take home.  “Use it up, Wear it out, Make do, or Do Without” has been reduced to the “do without”.

But wait! There’s Freecycle. Started in 2003 in Tucson, AZ, Freecycle is an online edge of the landfill that helps people find free stuff and helps other people find new homes for stuff. You go to the Freecycle website and type in your city and pick out the Freecycle groups nearest you. You will receive email listing the wants and offers each day. Respond directly to the offer or want ads to make a connection.

We started using Freecycle a couple of years ago and have made friends through it. One neighbor responded to an ad for free plants and has become a valued friend. We’ve made many swaps between us over the last two years– everything from homemade bread to extra garden vegetables to sharing equipment. We might never have met except through that first Freecycle ad– and it would have been a serious loss for us.

So, take away the joy of discovery at the edge of the landfill and replace it with the joy of finding a huge tractor tire for your flower bed while reading your morning email. Not quite as much fun as driving the neighborhood on trash night, but it saves on gas.


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