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Letter From America: Freecycling

"A small box advertisement on the page caught my eye. It said "Freecycle," and promised anything and everything all for no monetary outlay. I was transfixed. This was a new idea to me. A site that let people list what they want to get, and what they want to get rid of. It has to be stuff that would otherwise take up space in a landfill, and so the organisation is saving the planet and moving goods between people who have and don’t want, and people who want but don’t have. Moreover, it is all free...''

Ronnie Bray enthusiastically joins the Freecycling band who are helping to save our planet.

Read also Ronnie's autobiography which is being serialised in Open Writing. Click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

I have become a "Freecycler." Two nights ago I Freecyled sixteen miles and it took me less than twenty minutes total travelling time to cover the distance. That seems like a remarkable feat for a man who will be seventy-one in a couple of days and whose real legs have been stolen and replaced by an inferior pair. However, things are not always as they seem.

I came upon Freecycling by accident when searching for a wheelchair lift to attach to the back of our rig, so that we can transport Gay’s electric wheelchair, and help her get to some of the places that her difficulty with walking makes either inaccessible, or too difficult to be enjoyable.

I found many places where I could buy a new lift, but the cost is prohibitive, and so I added ’used’ to the Google search box and hit the button. Up came another lot of sites for selling new ones. Do they lie and utilise ‘used’ as a keyword to induce the desperate poor to visit them anyway? Should I tell the Better Business Bureau about their duplicity?

A small box advertisement on the page caught my eye. It said "Freecycle," and promised anything and everything all for no monetary outlay. I was transfixed. This was a new idea to me. A site that let people list what they want to get, and what they want to get rid of. It has to be stuff that would otherwise take up space in a landfill, and so the organisation is saving the planet and moving goods between people who have and don’t want, and people who want but don’t have. Moreover, it is all free.

With my talent for the sudden grasp of ideas that kept me permanently in the lower echelons of the school classroom, I deduced that ‘Freecycle’ was a combination of ‘recycle’ and ‘free.’

There are Freecycle groups spread across the USA, and a local one in the Valley of the Sun. Signing up is free, the stuff is free, and with any luck you can find what you need, and get shut of that atrocious vase your Auntie gave you three Christmases ago.

In my area’s Freecycle list there are about twenty new posts every day, so it is only a question of time before an electric hoist gets bolted onto our Explorer. Then, freedom will open new vistas and revives our spirit of adventure, heretofore curtailed because of the hardship Gay endures when putting her feet on the ground and propelling herself more than a few yards, and life will change for the better.

No lifts were on offer in the first Freecycle digest to hit my e-mail inbox. However, it was not a total failure. I had spent some time that morning measuring the wall above the washer and drier in the utility room, intending to buy some boards and erect a set of shelves over the one that is already there. We need more shelving to stack stuff we don’t want in the house, but which would melt or explode if it was left in the two-hundred-plus degree heat that builds up in the garage in Arizona summers.

I looked at the list again, to make sure I hadn’t missed the wheelchair lift the first time through, and saw where a fellow Freecycler wanted to get rid of a bookcase. Bookcases make excellent shelves, so I read on. This bookcase, the message said, had been sawn in half to make two short shelve units over a washer and drier. Perfect!

After couple of e-mail messages and a short drive, I fixed them to the wall over the laundry machines where they now accommodate our laundry detergent, cleaning products, a range of poisons to kill creepy-and-flying-crawlies, and a box of candles we keep in case we need to light oil lamps in a power outage.

Freecycle is a perfect arrangement where stuff that is good and has some wear left in it is not sent to choke landfill sites, but turned to good use by others. Although it was originally intended to be an environmental boon, it has beneficial side effects that transform it into a big stride on the road to Utopia.

Therefore, I am an enthusiastic convert to the blessings and benefits of Freecycling. We have put some of our unwanteds on the list, and had some takers. All that remains to be obtained to make life perfect is an electric wheelchair lift. I shall keep reading the daily digests, hoping that someone who has one to dispose of stumbles across the Freecycle site and becomes, like myself, a Freecycler.

Copyright © 2005
Ronnie Bray
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Read more of Ronnie's stories at:
http://www.2theheart.com/author_ronnie_bray
http://www.meridianmagazine.com/voices/011024summer.html

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