Tag Archives: responsible

Give away instead of throw away with Freecycle.org

FreecycleFreecycle is a fantastic resource for getting rid of items still in usable condition that you don’t want any more … and for getting free items that could be in great condition – or even new. It’s like a hand-me-down exchange you share with everyone in your community. You can use Freecycle just once or several times a day.

There are only a few rules in the overall Freecycle community, but individual groups may have extra rules of their own. Pay careful attention, as violations can lead to members being censored or even, banned. The most important rule is that everything exchanged on Freecycle must be free.

Use Freecycle to

  1. Post items you want to give away
  2. Ask for items you want or need – anything from a cars to a scarf
  3. Request an item someone else has posted (by sending a reply to the poster)

Get started by:

Visiting the Freecycle.org website. Look for a group in your area and join it. You can view new messages and post them via email, or by visiting your group’s web page.

Good items get snatched up pretty quickly in active groups, so when you’re in receive mode it makes sense to sign up to for email notifications. The volume of posts might be heavy, but you’ll see them quicker. When you’re no longer actively looking to receive items, change your group preference to read new posts on-line instead of via email.

Respond ASAP directly to the poster when you see an item you want. Don’t feel shy about sharing a bit of information about why you want it, but send your reply quickly.

Answer with the information the poster requests

Also, be sure to honor the request of posters when they ask for specific information to be included with replies. The intent of Freecycle is simply to keep good items out of landfills, thereby cutting down on waste. But, posters are free to choose recipients for their items and some want them going to individuals who will make personal use of them.

That’s why some posters set up simple tests to distinguish replies intentionally sent by people from those sent by autoresponders – apps set up by people who request every item posted and sell the most valuable ones they receive. The test question might be your phone number, or it might ask for the sum of 2 numbers: simple information humans will have no trouble providing but autoresponders are not able to process.

Most posters will also want to know when you plan to pick up an item.

Freecycling is a community activity and helps the environment

I’ve been using Freecycle for several years and have given away a TV, two beds, curtains, a wheelbarrow, two Razor scooters, a moped (in need of repair), decorative pillows and many other items. I’ve received an almost-new computer tower, perfumes, clothing, DVDs, a bike, an awesome pair of Van sneakers that an older teen outgrew, a huge toy box we converted into a laundry holder and some other great stuff.

It’s excellent for the environment to gift items instead of throwing them out, and it’s nice to be part of a community of people who believe this is an important activity. I hope you’ll become a Freecycle convert too and if you do, maybe I’ll see you on the Bergen County, NJ Freecycle Group.

Happy Freecycling!

Buy a sustainably grown Christmas tree or re-plant one

Want to responsibly handle your Christmas tree purchase and disposal this year? A growing number of people do, so there are options if you’re willing to spend a little extra effort, time and maybe money.

Green America reports that you can buy a cut tree from a family farm that plants “about two trees for every one cut” and grows trees on rocky soil where other crops don’t thrive. “This means that instead of barren land, the farm hosts trees that provide oxygen and combat global warming.” But, you also want an organically grown tree to avoid bringing home harmful toxins or supporting the practice of allowing pesticides and herbicides to contaminate soil and groundwater.

How to find a responsible, organic tree vendor in New Jersey

Maybe you want to replant your tree!

For this laudable goal, take a trip to the Philly area and buy a tree that can be replanted – in your backyard; by donating it back to Tiny Terra Ferma or to a local environmental center like the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education or the Upper Roxborough Reservoir … or replant it in a service event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on 20 Jan 2014.

Good luck with your responsible Christmas tree hunt and a very Happy Christmas to you! Let us know what your search turns up.

Responsible computer and e-waste disposal

e-waste-recycle binI was just about to give some old computers to someone who contacted me through Freecycle, claiming to be a recycler, when I learned at a seminar that a lot of electronic waste (e-waste) like computers and electronic gizmos contain highly toxic substances,

such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants. When the latter are burned at low temperatures they create additional toxins, such as halogenated dioxins and furans – some of the most toxic substances known to humankind.

And, e-waste often ends up being shipped from the US to very poor countries where unskilled laborers – like pregnant women and little children – disassemble them and extract a few materials that are worth money to their employers, exposing themselves in the process to hazardous chemicals and the probability of shortened life expectancies. They are given neither danger warnings or protective gear.

70-80% of the e-waste that’s given to recyclers is exported to less developed countries. Once there, primitive technologies such as open air burning and riverside acid baths are used to extract a few materials. The rest of the toxic materials are usually dumped. Unlike other countries in the world, the U.S. sends a significant portion of its hazardous e-waste to U.S. prisons to process in less-regulated environments without the worker protections and rights afforded in the private sector. Moreover, such operations amount to government subsidies, undermining the development of responsible private-sector recycling infra-structure and distorting the economics of recycling.


The speaker at that seminar responsibly recycles e-waste, but only for big corporations. They’re not going to take just a few old, broken down laptops off my hands, so what should I do with them? Knowing the correct terminology is useful when searching: I googled “computer responsible recycling” and a few clicks later, learned that there is an e-waste steward right in my town. I’ve emailed that company and hope they’ll soon take those relics off my hands and dispose of them without destroying anyone or my family’s air and water supplies.

Responsible disposal resources

The moral of this story is: only give your old electronics to organizations or companies when you’re sure they will handle them responsibly, either by reconditioning them or breaking them down without poisoning anyone in the process. Use these resources to find a responsible disposal recipient:

You can give your computer away to be refurbished and shipped overseas if it’s reasonably new and works, or look over this guide to learn how to recycle your electronic item responsibly.