RECYCLING is part of the post-consumerism we advocate at Off-grid. But FREECYCLING goes one better.
Freecycle founder Deron Beal calls it “the worldwide gift economy. ”
At freecycle.org members give away things they would otherwise throw away. They also post want ads on their 1277 local web sites around the world. The (local) recipient collects – for free. The energy spent on transport is far outweighed by the energy saved in avoiding bringing one more item into a crowded world.
In a sense Freecycle is one of the most subversive things we have written about – but Deron is not looking for conflict: “We try not to criticise the existing paradigm but maybe there is a little piece missing from that puzzle” he said during an interview with Off-grid.
Beal is an inveterate hoarder and he has to stop himself snapping up the offers on his many web sites. The hardest thing to pass up: “12 Telephone poles to use in my fence round the yard. But my wife nixed that one because she knew damn well I would just let them sit there for a year and half. She said ‘Deron, for you, Freecycle is about giving stuff away’.”
The political message is the one that gets Deron fired up in the mornings. “There is another paradigm out there,” he says, “which is that the value of an item can be measured not just by dollars but in the generosity of the giver, so one’s personal worth is measured in the generosity of giving rather than value of the dollars one is able to give in the giving.”
Deron’s philosophy may be a bit incoherent at times, but he is trying to define something as he goes along. It is something new and radical, and it is something that has attracted over 500,000 registered members worldwide in just a few months
In his home town of Tucson there were 70-80 non-profit organisations which have joined Freecycle, Beal said. “When people give to nonprofits they normally go to the main places that have shops like Red Cross. Now the non-profits are able to ask for what they need rather than taking what they can get. And they can give you all the paperwork to get a tax rebate.”
But the tax benefits are an afterthought: “People helping people directly is a very powerful thing. When you see someone drive off in something you gave them that is a cathartic moment.”