by Sayaka Matsuoka
Empty cat-litter jugs, used peanut oil, lazy Susans, cinder blocks. Anything from the practical to the obscure to the seemingly useless and more can be found on Freecycle.org. This was the kind of thing Deron Beal envisioned when he created the grassroots organization website more than 10 years ago. His goal was to provide a convenient online platform through which community members could acquire items they wanted and list items they had to give away. At first glance this might sound similar to Craigslist, but the difference is that on Freecycle, everything is free.
You start with only three words: offer, wanted and taken, and through the use of these three words, you can navigate through the whole website. Freecycle is set in a forum format where users can list things that they are offering, wanting and those that have been taken. Through these various posts, you can start finding your new treasures and helping others obtain theirs.
My experience with the organization started when I stumbled upon Freecycle in my travels across the internet a few years ago as a poor, thrifty, college student. I made an account and began sorting through the junk lying around my parents’ home; anything from old DVD players to stereos, to TVs was fair game. (My family was the kind that collected new electronics almost every year but also hoarded the old ones in case there was some sort of unexpected electronic emergency). As I was giving away our unwanteds, not unlike Oprah with cars, I corresponded with a woman who was a teacher at an underserved Greensboro school. She wanted an older model DVD player that I had put up as an offer to use in her classroom because the school just couldn’t afford one. I hadn’t given much thought to the process at first but after that encounter, it started to feel good to help people in need while clearing up space.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t minor drawbacks to Freecycle just as with any community driven website. I found however, despite the flaky responders who failed to show up or the rude ones who were unjustifiably disappointed with the items they got, Freecycle is a useful tool for connecting with people in your area and — I’m not the only one. More than 7 million members across 85 countries use the grassroots organization including those in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point.
So if you’re the kind of person who feels like going Dumpster diving, is frequently spotted in thrift stores or you just have things that you no longer use, Freecycle might be the place on the internet for you.