Reduce, Reuse, Freecycle!
It’s hard to find much to say about the environment that’s not serious. The message of groups like the astonishing Extinction Rebellion which I could summarise as: “We’ve all got to change our ways to a highly considerable extent or the lives and welfare of the future generations around the globe will be put at risk” isn’t a hugely cheering sentiment. But as Totnes’ own Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement, said recently about keeping up the environmental fight:
“Martin Luther King didn’t say ‘I have a dream. But it’s probably not going to happen and it might cause a bit of disruption for commuters and it might be a bit expensive so perhaps we won’t bother.’”
And so indeed we fight on, each in our own way, as we can, cutting down on plastic, reducing unnecessary consumption and passing on what we no longer need to someone else.
One of my ways of helping is my obsessive-compulsive use of the brilliant organisation that is Freecycle. In case you don’t already have Freecycle in your life then I need to let you know about it. It is a way that people can find things they need and collect them from other people’s homes for free, while those homes get de-cluttered without any picking up and carrying things to charity shops. Which is very helpful.
When we moved to Exeter we needed a kitchen table, fast. Off to the charity shops with me and £30 later we had a perfectly functional MDF kitchen table which the children adored, for some unknown reason. Some months later, when we were all settled in, I picked up a decent wooden table from Teignmouth, on Gumtree, which we restored and varnished and made look borderline acceptable. We no longer needed the MDF charity shop table and so, talking over the children’s tears, I phoned the charity shop and booked in a slot for them to come and pick it up. On the allotted time we duly waited in for several hours and then they came. They took one look at the table and proclaimed it way below standard for their shop. In vain did I argue that I had bought it from them just a few months before and that our family were very light users of all things furniture…
Enter Freecycle! I posted it on Freecycle and within hours I had several willing takers for it. And we didn’t have to wait in for hours, because Freecycle users are you and me, not companies who have to give you a slot for a few hours because they drive all day, but people who fix an actual time, and who, usually, turn up at that time.
I have used Freecycle so many times over the years, and have found many happy recipients of things we no longer needed. We redecorated a room recently and had some offcuts of laminate left over. The builder advised us these pieces were no use to anyone because we had used the ‘clippy’ side, leaving a useless remnant. Not useless to Freecycle users. Someone put them into service to make a perfectly decent floor for a Wendy house for their adorable moppets. (I didn’t see a photo of them, but I assume they were adorable.)
Left behind in the house we bought was a marble table top. A perfectly lovely item, but slightly less useful being just a tabletop, with no corresponding table bottom to go with it. What could be done with that? A freecycler knew – a lovely chap got in touch following my “Marble table top offered” post, and he created a hearth using it for his woodburning stove. I did receive a photo of that – a perfectly fabulous creation.
Popular items I have freecycled include things my children have grown out of playing with, which I am delighted to see moved on, and which other people’s children are crying out for. Often literally. And I discovered one kind of thing that collectors go nuts for when I freecycled an old cassette recorder from my days of freelancing at the BBC. It was only minutes after I published the post before I picked up a phone call from someone who was willing to come from Barnstaple to pick it up. And 30 minutes later, another call from an equally desperate collector who was appalled to hear it had already gone. That one should presumably have gone on eBay for several hundred pounds rather than Freecycle, but that’s not the point.
And, Freecycle is not just for giving away – we all of us have things we are looking to acquire but aren’t quite sure how or where. A while ago I really coveted a chaise longue covered with a patchwork design. These beautiful items sell in shops, but only for mega bucks, rather than the small number of bucks I was willing to part with. But from Freecycle, I picked up a graceful Victorian chaise longue for free from someone wanting to de-clutter and now, after quite a lot of skilled upholstery work, I have a beautiful piece of customised furniture. Following this were several small pouffes now adorned with delightful peacock and flower designs. For this particular transformation, you do need a clever friend or family member with an upholstery course in their back pocket and spare time on their hands. I recommend retired mothers for this task, mine especially.
When autumn kicks in I am planning a major rethink of my garden – the gravel which is so ‘hurty’ on the bare feet which all good people wear, has just got to go. I am planning that it is replaced by beautiful green, wildlife friendly, daisy-filled grass. But I have no intention of watching the perfectly good gravel go in a skip. So, expect to see posts for gravel offered on Freecycle. What I am saying here is that if you want an industrial ton load of good quality, rather pointy gravel, free to anyone who can collect and remove to their own home, do get in touch. Seriously.
Written By Tess Read
Photos sourced via Unsplash.