A talk at TEDx Edinburgh today reminded me of how cool Freegle (formerly Freecycle, in the UK) is. Since not everyone has quite as greedy a ‘free stuff’ radar as I do, it’s possible some people haven’t heard of this concept. Basically, if you’ve ever had that guilty twinge as you threw something out — “I’m sure someone could use this, if only I could find them” — Freegle is there to help. Post an email to the list and most of the time someone will be listening, ready to take it off your hands, and usually very conveniently (they turn up and take it away, saving you effort).
I’ve given away a couple of things and received a few more through Freegle when it was Freecycle, and it’s a great system, making you feel a little bit warm and fuzzy as well as either getting free stuff or free space. Hurrah.
Of course, like any economic idyll, there are problems. One such is reflected in the shift from Freecycle to Freegle, which Wikipedia just about tells me was due to American Overlords ousting long-serving UK volunteers who refused to kowtow to rigid systems [neutrality disputed]. (In fact, one gets the impression from the Wikipedia page that Freecycle itself is almost a nasty piece of work, getting mired in trademark disputes and corporate funds rather than focusing on its key goals. Freegle seems not to suffer from this, fortunately.)
Another is part of the unfortunate hassle in listing and giving away items; I’ve often seen comments about no-shows and the like on the Freegle lists. I’m guessing that because there’s no value associated with the transaction, people can change their minds and just not turn up — one way around this that I’ve seen is for people to hold reserve recipients in mind in case the top choice doesn’t turn up, rather than relist. A problem with listing a popular item is the ensuing flood of responses — I remember seeing a laptop of some sort going, and the lister decided to give it to the most deserving (which is fair enough), a child in hospital. Still, sorting through all those emails, even the ones that come after the item’s long gone.. I don’t envy that. If your email system is anything like mine, I’d almost recommend using a separate account just for this stuff, or it gets crazy.
Still, despite these minor bumps, Freegle is great, both from a giver’s and receiver’s perspective. So next time you wonder if you really should throw that old router away… list it, give it a few days, and get someone to come round after you’ve had your tea and take it off your hands. Hurrah!