Freecycle viable alternative for trash


As a college student, I’m always looking for a way to save money. And as a person who cares about the environment, I’m always looking for ways to do just a little bit more for it.

Because of both of these things, I have always had a problem with paying for City of Marquette garbage bags. They’re expensive and certainly not biodegradable. Not only that, but residents are also assessed a waste collection fee.

My roommates and I have always recycled, but when I got really fed up with the garbage bag system, I began to recycle even more because the city will pick up recycling for free.

I quickly realized that by recycling everything possible, my house, which has three people living in it, could throw away half as much stuff and therefore spend half as much on waste collection bags.

Although that much recycling was benefitting both the environment and my pocketbook, it got even better.

I was recently introduced to something called the Freecycle Network. It’s an online network which began in 2003 among 30 friends in Arizona, and is now a non-profit organization dedicated to giving, getting and keeping reusable things out of landfills. It was founded on the basic principle of “being nice.” The best part? It’s all free.

Since its humble beginnings, Freecycle has gained over 6 million members and has spread across America and to 85 other countries around the world. The concept is simple: You join the group online and gain access to a message board. You then post what you want to give away or what you are in search of. So without spending a dime, you can get anything you need or get rid of anything you have.

Recently, I had a bed to get rid of. Without the means to transport it back to my parents’ house seven hours away and not wanting to throw it out, I desperately searched for another solution. On a whim, I posted the bed on Craigslist and Freecycle, in hopes that someone might want it. I was astounded, because within an hour, I had received 11 replies from interested parties on Freecycle.

Such an organization is perfect for students. For the poor student, it provides almost everything you might need, including furniture, housewares, and bikes, for no cost. In theory, you could furnish an apartment for nothing more than what it would cost you to go pick it up. For the eco-conscious student, it promotes reuse and keeps things out of already crowded landfills. Freecycle estimates that it is able to keep 500 tons of waste out of landfills every day.

The City of Marquette used to have a Trash-to-Treasure day each spring. This day allowed residents to put out whatever they didn’t want on the curb and anyone could take it. In 2008, the practice was discontinued by the city, disgruntling many who both loved and utilized it.

It seems that Freecycle may have revived that idea, except improved. It exists all year long and allows you to ask for things you are looking for as well. And Freecycle has been approved by the government as a non-profit organization, so all donations are tax deductible.

So instead of ditching that futon in the dumpster when you move out of the dorms, or pitching that bike you outgrew years ago, put it on Freecycle. Not only will your stuff find a new home, you can feel good that something still usable is not rotting away in a landfill. And you might even find a few things you’ve been looking for.