How to Freecycle - Give And Get Free Stuff

We've all heard the old slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Those of us who care about our environment have done our best to live by these words for years: investing in a water filter instead of buying bottled water, washing out countless ziplock bags, faithfully sorting through our trash for recyclables, using solar chargers for our electronics. Now, there's a new way to keep things out of the landfill, called "freecycling." Actually, the concept isn't all that revolutionary, but it's gaining more and more attention these days--in part because of raised awareness about environmental issues, but also because of the economy.

What Is Freecycling?

Free cycling is pretty simple, when it comes down to it. It just means giving to others, free of charge, what you would normally throw away. There are countless freecycle groups online, each with their own etiquette, where people regularly give away free stuff from furniture to extra charcoal for the barbecue! Freecycling websites are not the only way to go, however. You can also get free stuff from the "free" section on many classified sites such as Craigslist. This is a form of freecycling as well... though the people involved don't necessarily know it.

Add photos to your freecycle post, so people know what they're getting.
Add photos to your freecycle post, so people know what they're getting.

How to Freecycle

The first step is to decide how committed you are to getting involved with a freecycling community. If you are just looking for a free couch, and don't see yourself engaging in the lifestyle beyond that, free stuff on Craigslist is probably more up your alley. If, on the other hand, you think you might want to freecycle on a fairly regular basis, you should consider finding a local freecycling group (a simple Google search will do it, or visit the Freecycle Network website at Freecycle.org).

Once you've found your community, but before you start posting willy-nilly, make sure you browse around a little. Make notes on the freecycling etiquette that group uses, and then try to adhere to that format when you make your own posts.

On most freecycle websites, you can post either a want or an offer. In other words, if you're moving and have all the furniture you need except for a coffee table, you might go to your freecycle group and make a post titled "Wanted: Coffee Table" (titles subject to the netiquette of your particular group). Then anyone who has a coffee table they don't need lying around would be able to respond to your post. Conversely, if you just got a new washing machine and the old one still works, you could post something like "Offered: Washing Machine" and others in need would respond accordingly.

More Free Cycling Etiquette

In general, freecycling websites are not friendly to people who come into their groups and whine. You don't need to explain why you need something, or why you're giving it away in any great detail. Freecyclers are committed to the lifestyle. They already want to help. You don't need to convince them. If someone has what you need, they'll respond. If nobody has it, they won't. It isn't personal.

Another thing to remember is that it's extremely helpful to include photos with your offer posts. It can be very frustrating to get excited about a free bookshelf, only to show up to pick it up and discover that it's not anything like what you imagined. You can easily take photos on a digital camera, or even most mobile phones, and upload to a hosting site like Flixya or Photobucket. They don't need to be fancy; they just need to give an idea of what the offered object looks like.

Curb Alerts

For those who don't want to spend the time reading and responding to a lot of posts, there's another option.  You can simply post what's called a "curb alert," telling people that you're putting something out on the curb, and it's there for the taking if they get there before the garbage man.  Of course, this isn't as great of an option, because the item might still end up in the landfill.  But hey, if you're throwing it out anyway, it's better than nothing.  Craigslist free section is full of these curb alerts, and here in Oakland, most of my friends have at one point or another liberated a free chair or end table as a result of them.

In the end, freecycling is good for everyone.  It's good for the person who gets the free stuff (especially in this economy).  It's good for the person who gives it away, who gets to have a lighter conscience.  And, best of all, it's good for Mother Nature.

Happy Freecycling to you all!

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Comments 60 comments

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 4 years ago from USA

This is a great way to make sure the items you are collecting actually get used. I gave away old magazines to a Sunday school, and old glass jars to someone who used them to sell soy candles. I also gave away a rocking chair I was planning on reupholstering, but never got around to. It makes me feel better that the stuff I am hoarding is actually getting used by someone else. Why throw away perfectly good stuff that someone can use.

Our local freecycle group does not allow curb alerts.


Phil Plasma profile image

Phil Plasma 4 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

Our freecycle group here in Montreal has really gone down lately. A big problem for some of my friends and I is that live in a subarb and are mobile (have a car) but a lot of the freecyclists live in the city and are not mobile (take public transit) so whenever they take us up on an offer, and find out they have to get out here, it falls through. The idea of it is great, but it doesn't work so well here.

Here in Quebec we have a company called Renaissance that will accept any types of goods and put them back into use, when all else fails we bring our excess stuff there.

Great hub, to be promoting freecycle.


CloudExplorer profile image

CloudExplorer 4 years ago from New York City

I tried it a while back, but it turned out to be more like spa, site, the one that I located. I'm sure the concept of freecycling is awesome, maybe if I find a great group to join it may help me see this new found reality, Voted up as Awesome. Thanks for sharing Maddie & nice to meet ya.


the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 4 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

definately going to chesk this out


htodd profile image

htodd 4 years ago from United States

That's really great ..Thanks


Andrew Trusty 5 years ago

Re: Freecycle groups, they are a great resource but sometimes it can be hard for new Freecycle members to adjust to all the rules and the flood of email from the mailings lists.

I've built a new free web site for existing groups that tries to makes it easier for people to use Freecycle. You can try it out at http://trashnothing.com


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 5 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I like "Freecycle.com" altho if your response isn't early enough, you lose out real fast. Didn't know about curb recycling or craigs list, and will begin using this service. Helpful and motivating hub on getting involved in a recycling project - something we all should be a part of. Rated up and useful. Thanks.


BlueDinosaur profile image

BlueDinosaur 5 years ago from Denver, CO

Great idea. I actually freecycle via Craig's List. I just put on the list a price but also put in my ad that I will exchange said item for something else that I'm looking for and provide that looking-for list. I've made some great exchanges over the last few years. Great hub.


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

Gret HUB and sound concept. I like it. I'm going to try it. Thanks and Good Luck, peter


sam19392 profile image

sam19392 5 years ago from United Kingdom

nice


thehemu profile image

thehemu 5 years ago from New Delhi, India

that's awesome, never heard of freecycling before thanks for sharing.


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Great hub. Thanks for the useful tips. Bookmarked, rated up and useful.


CollB 5 years ago

Fantastic hub. I'll check back here as a reference point for when I need to free cycle items.


Terryandco profile image

Terryandco 5 years ago

We have similar freecycle websites in the UK and they run by locals- they work well, they are popular but you have to be careful about people taking advantage...


tebo profile image

tebo 5 years ago from New Zealand

I like this idea very much. I have a lot of trouble throwing things out that I feel aren't for the scrap heap. I do put things in collection bins but of course bigger items are a little more difficult. I shall have to see if they have anything like this in NZ. Thanks.


amybradley77 profile image

amybradley77 5 years ago

Thank you so much for doing this!!! One day that I do dred, coming is when my Grandfather does pass on, he is very sick and will. He has some items, I know for a fact not a person in our intire family cares to have, and the rest has already been given. So, for that portion of items, in which nobody cares to keep, we should all have a place to take these things, after all one mans junk is anothers treasure. So, again thank you so very much for this. A.B.


WestOcean profile image

WestOcean 5 years ago from Great Britain

An inspirational hub. The best things in life are free!


okmom23 profile image

okmom23 5 years ago from Midwest, U.S.A.

Freecycle is a great site, which I have been using for years to recyle. My daughter's collection of educational software was received free from freecycle.

Fantastic hub!


Cagsil profile image

Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

Hey Maddie, never heard of freecycling before your hub. Sounds pretty cool and a wonderful way to do things. It has a lot of potential providing corruption does not set in within a community. Thank you for sharing such a useful article. :)


Hank 5 years ago

Within the last twenty years ive, Given away 5 autos, To folks who needed transportation. Now im in need of transpotation. If anyone has an auto or motorbike to give, In the new orleans area. Please call Hank. Im good @ minor and some major repairs. 985-466 3163 Thanx


PaperNotes profile image

PaperNotes 6 years ago

Thank you, perhaps we all have done this freecycling concept one way or another before. It's just now been baptized with a new name so it became more sensationalized.


sarovai profile image

sarovai 6 years ago

Freecycling something I learned , with useful tips. Thank u for sharing.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

The trouble with freecycling for me is that by the time I no longer want something, nobody else would either. However, my son lives in a neighborhood where they throw some pretty great stuff away. In fact, my favorite coat came from there, in a box at the curb.


PR_am profile image

PR_am 6 years ago from Oregon

There is joy in giving. And what better time to put up an article like this than now. Thanks for sharing this information. Very useful


Sweetsusieg profile image

Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

I've been involved in my local 'freecycling' group for some time now. Most are quite nice and helpful. I had an emergency need and they rallied together to help, it was wonderful.

If you don't mind, I'd like to link this to my "How to make money curb surfing".

Great Hub and for those of you who haven't tried it, give it a whirl!


OrlandoC profile image

OrlandoC 6 years ago from Glen Ridge

Wow, I never even heard of freecycling before!


barryrutherford profile image

barryrutherford 6 years ago from Queensland Australia

We all have more than we need and giving create peace & a better please well done with this hub idea !


Woman Of Courage profile image

Woman Of Courage 6 years ago

Excellent information! I never heard of freecycling, but I will check it out when I get a chance.


DREAM ON profile image

DREAM ON 6 years ago

This is all new to me.Why not share what you have and maybe find a good deal also.Out with the old in with the new.Great hub.


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California

It's just a great concept, especially for anyone looking to save money. I browse the free section on craigslist often and it's surprising some of the things you can find there. So many people live with the "throw away" mentality when it comes to things that just aren't being used or just things not wanted anymore. Reminds me of the Book of Eli movie when he mentions how it used to be that people had more than they needed, and would throw away things that people would kill for now. I didn't know about freecycling site, thanks for informing us. Going to check them out! =)


Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna Marie Bowman 6 years ago from Florida

My sister told me about this, and I plan on using it a lot. I love fixing up furniture, and doing fun things with it, and this sounds perfect!!!


Latrelle Ross 6 years ago

Fantastic! Free cycling is a large part of how I maintain a sustainable lifestyle. It's great knowing I've reduced my carbon footprint and it's fun watching my stuff go out the door with someone who really needs it.

Great hub :)


Boomer60 profile image

Boomer60 6 years ago

I know of people who scan the freebie ads all the time and grab the free stuff off the curbs. Many of these items are resalable and can be pawned at local pawn shops. It is a great way to make extra money for free. People sometimes have no idea what they are getting rid of.


EnergyAdvisor profile image

EnergyAdvisor 6 years ago from The nearest planet to Venus

Very cool Hub. I suppose we could stop making things and only freecycle. There is already enough stuff on this planet:) vote up!


freesammie profile image

freesammie 6 years ago

That was good to know that great info to thank you for your time!


rgarnett profile image

rgarnett 6 years ago from KC, MO

I am connected on our local FreeCycle and I tell everyone I can about it. I love it. I get books and furniture and vaccuums and all sorts of things. I have gotten rid of a lot of things I would have normally just thrown out. Its a win-win. I am glad you are getting the word out on this, its an excellent project.


film critic profile image

film critic 6 years ago

I think the bad economy has been contributing a lot to good behavior. The Brown Movement has been building steam - in this otherwise world of consumerism and waste.

I have a friend who makes a living picking up garbage from the curb and selling the stuff. He gave me some tips and I went out and tried it a few times - both the night before garbage pick-up, and early the morning of. Every time I went, I ended up behind a loaded pick-up truck that was better at it then me.

I gave up as I don't have a truck, and I am not much for the competition (but I still keep my eyes open.)

Regardless, the building popularity in wasting less makes me happy.

Thanks for the hub!


iluvceleb 6 years ago

Although I wasn't aware of freecycle, I really like the tips, which could contribute to environment.


ltfawkes profile image

ltfawkes 6 years ago from NE Ohio

"It's good for the person who gets the free stuff (especially in this economy). It's good for the person who gives it away, who gets to have a lighter conscience."

It's a win-win. Nice.

L.T.


Adult Content profile image

Adult Content 6 years ago

I think it's funny that it's a trendy thing now. I personally have been doing this kind of thing for years.


lctodd1947 profile image

lctodd1947 6 years ago from USA

Very interesting and useful. Thank you for sharing this freecycle information.


zzron profile image

zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

Great info and very useful. Thank you so much.


Seakay profile image

Seakay 6 years ago from Florida

My daughter introduced me to Craigs list. She always goes there first when she's looking for the best "buy".

Great advice for everyone interested in maintaining the ecology of our planet! We have become the "disposable" generation. Very sad. "No one can do everything, but everyone can do something!"


How to - Answers profile image

How to - Answers 6 years ago from Ireland

Very interesting hub. We in Ireland have quite a few websites that have free stuff to get and give away. It is a great idea.


dealrocker profile image

dealrocker 6 years ago from California

Nice hub! Very well written and very informative.


simplelifelina profile image

simplelifelina 6 years ago from United States

I love curb alerts and free stuff as well as giving out stuff I am no longer using! Great post!


sunforged profile image

sunforged 6 years ago from Sunforged.com

I give/receive via freecycle sites quite frequently, its a great resource for art supplies and repurposing items.

where I live there are 'meetUp" sites for Freecycle , I bet they exist in other communities as well


SteveoMc profile image

SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

Great idea, I am going to look into it right now....I have a bunch of junk that I was planning for the dump. But I would love to give it away instead.

Thanks


Madison Parker profile image

Madison Parker 6 years ago from California

Really interesting and informative Hub. I guess I've been "freecycling" for years but never knew it! I'm fascinated that there are websites for freecycling. Great info.

Shay Davidson/Madison


revortay1 profile image

revortay1 6 years ago from PA

I had never heard of free-cycling before reading this hub however I think that it is a great idea! I think I might just check it out sometime!


Winsome profile image

Winsome 6 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas

Hey Maddie, I think it is a nice throwback to a more neighborly era. In the little town of Sierra Madre, they have a "sharing wall" in the canyon and people drive by and leave items they don't need and take ones they can use. It's not advertised but everyone in the neighborhood knows and you get to know each other better--especially when you're literally walking a mile in their shoes. =:)


Nancy's Niche profile image

Nancy's Niche 6 years ago from USA

I've been doing this for years but I never heard it called freecycling; I like that term... :o)


Jane Grey profile image

Jane Grey 6 years ago from Oregon

Great ideas here! I've heard more and more about this recently. The "living green" aspect isn't so appealing to me. A generation ago it was called "living frugally," and we were serving the agenda of our own family, not of an earth-worshipping social structure. FreeRecycle provides a great way to live frugally, save more, spend less!


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

I love the idea of freecycling. In this day and age it's nice to be able to help those who need and and get a little help for yourself if you need it.


judydianne profile image

judydianne 6 years ago from Palm Harbor, FL

Very good hub and a way to help our environment. There's another website called swaptree.com where you can trade books, cds and movies free. Check it out!


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 6 years ago from Tampa Bay

great info maddie. I've been getting more involved with this RRR movement and I think it's great. why be bothered with stuff that we're waiting around to sell? it's so much easier just to freecycle it. it's funny that you mention going through the garbage to find a recycling item. I find bottles that my son forgets to blue bag and I'm digging through the garbage to rinse it off! thanks for sharing this. it gives me more incentive.


Jai Warren profile image

Jai Warren 6 years ago from Dallas, Deep Ellum, Texas

I just saw an article on Yahoo mentioning Craigslist and freecycling. It makes sense, in this world of bigger is better, people are getting rid of things that are perfectly fine to reuse. Why not recycle? Thanks for the tips, Maddie. :) Ciao!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

Good advice. Thank you.


jasper420 6 years ago

I agree i use to litter and poulte now seeing it makes me very angry thanks for the info


sherrylou57 profile image

sherrylou57 6 years ago from Riverside

I agree, help where ever you can! God gave us this beautiful world, that he created! Do not pollute. God made the mountains, not the trash!

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