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10 Tips: Don't throw that away: 'freecycle' it

"Freecycle" rhymes with "recycle" for a reason. The term means "free recycling" - as in, giving stuff away and getting stuff free of charge from folks who live in your area.

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published December 16, 2007


"Freecycle" rhymes with "recycle" for a reason. The term means "free recycling" - as in, giving stuff away and getting stuff free of charge from folks who live in your area. In addition to saving people hundreds if not thousands of dollars, freecycling is good for the environment because it keeps oodles of junk out of landfills. Intrigued? Consider these tips:

1 Get started. Find a local group of freecyclers through the Freecycle Network at Once you join, you'll start getting e-mail messages listing all sorts of items offered, wanted and accepted.

2 Brace yourself for a deluge of e-mail. You can create a separate freecycle folder, or you can opt to receive digests once or twice a day or just check your group's online message board. The daily digests and the message board likely won't be as timely as the immediate e-mail messages, though.

3 Check out other recycling groups. Connect with like-minded recyclers through Sharing Is Giving (,, the ReUseIt Network ( and On the Craigslist site for the Tampa Bay area (, you'll find a "free" section under "for sale."

4 Mind your manners and attitude. Always have an eye toward giving, not just receiving. Also, don't try to trade or swap through freecycling sites; the idea is to give stuff away with no strings attached.

5 Show respect in your postings. Keep your postings brief. Also remember that this isn't a place to make personal attacks, spam people, solicit for money or share political views or religious beliefs.

6 Keep it legal, honest and clean. Big posting no-nos include pornography, alcohol, tobacco, drugs (including medicines, vitamins and creams), firearms and other weapons. Be up front about the age, condition and size of your items, and post photos.

7 Stay safe. Avoid posting personal information, such as your phone number or address. With pickups and dropoffs, avoid going to a stranger's home by yourself or having a stranger come over if you're home alone. Meet in a public place or leave items outside for a recipient and keep your door locked.

8 Don't leave people hanging. Be punctual and thoughtful when scheduling pickups and dropoffs. Don't dally about picking up an item you've accepted. Take it off the giver's hands within three days, max.

9 Examine items carefully. Remember, a big benefit of freecycling is the ability to unclutter your home. Before you make someone else's trash your treasure, make sure it functions the way it should. If it doesn't, how realistic are your chances of fixing it? Don't take it home if it will simply create more clutter.

10 Decide how to handle multiple responses. If you post a popular item, you may be inundated with dozens of e-mail messages within minutes. What to do? One option is to give priority to a struggling local charity if such a charity responds. Another is to randomly draw a name from a hat. Don't just say, "It's on the porch for whoever gets here first."

Laura T. Coffey (

Sources: Consumer Reports Money Adviser (; Freecycle Network (

[Last modified December 14, 2007, 21:26:37]

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