Online network makes good use of old items

Freecycle Princeton is a giveaway network on which members can give and receive items for no cost.

By: Hilary Parker
   Although Christmas has passed and the holiday season is drawing to a close, the season of giving lasts the whole year long for local Freecyclers. Freecycle Princeton is one of more than 3,000 online communities that make up the Freecycle Network, created in 2003 as a way to reduce the waste headed for landfills. The rules are simple — anyone can post an offering detailing items they are looking to give away, and, through e-mail, interested takers arrange to pick them up.
   "I joined Freecycle to give things away," said Nancy Lipp, a Freecycle Princeton member, "but also discovered there were things that people were giving away that I needed — that was a surprise."
   Although the interactions begin online, people often meet face-to-face when the takers pick up their newfound treasures — a treat for those who might otherwise never know how people were able to use items they donated. Audrey Chen of Princeton recently purchased her parents’ home and has used Freecycle extensively to give away items that had accumulated in the house over the past 30 years. With its strong community base, Ms. Chen said she hasn’t been too concerned about the safety of having a stranger arrive at her door to pick up things like the enameled turkey roaster and antique license plates she recently gave away.
   Volunteers from All Saints’ Church in Princeton picked up many of Ms. Chen’s giveaways to help furnish the apartment they provided to a family of Hurricane Katrina refuges. Similarly, volunteers from many local nonprofit organizations, such as HomeFront, have made use of the Freecycle network, picking up itemsfor people in need.
   "I enjoy when people send a thank-you that includes a little information about how they are using my stuff," said Ondria Wasem of West Windsor, who recently gave away a winter coat. "Coincidentally, the day she picked it up from me, her furnace broke, and she was grateful to have something really warm to wear while it got fixed."