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A bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

Giving Your Trash a Second Chance

Those of you that follow my website and my YouTube channel know I’m all about reuse: I save the scraps from my big woodworking projects to make little woodworking projects. I use my sawdust to mulch my garden and as bedding for my worm farm. I feed table scraps to my worms or throw them on my compost pile. Then I turn around and use my worm castings and compost to feed my garden. Basically I try to make my life as much as a closed ecosystem as I can and I produce very little trash. What little trash I do produce can almost entirely be recycled via my local single-stream recycling program.

Maximize Reuse By Thinking Beyond Your Own Necessities

So what about the stuff that doesn’t fit your own needs? What do you do when you have some item or materials that have absolutely no value to you but might be useful to another like-minded person with a different set of needs, projects, or priorities?

Now I’ll admit it: things that I want to get rid of that still has monetary value I’ll usually try to sell first. And why not? Living a life without money is at worst impossible, and at most completely impractical for the average person.

I’ve tried offering items to my friends and family, and that’s fine provided you limit the offerings to items like clothing, appliances, and furniture, but beyond that unless your friends are as nutty about reducing trash as I am, they might not respond, and might actually think you’re flat-out strange for wasting so much effort on keeping things out of the trash can.  I know mine do!

The CraigsList Option

You might try listing stuff on the free section of your local CraigsList, but I’ve had very little success with this. First of all my local CraigsList’s “Free Section” is where pallets and pianos go to die, and where people try to con you into cutting down trees they don’t want. In the past when I’ve listed things on CL’s free section I’ve received more spam and scams than legit replies, and those that did reply never showed up.

Freecycle

A bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

A bunch of fence pickets that I offered on Freecycle.

Fortunately I found out there is a pretty large like-minded community interested in giving and receiving free stuff. I started with Freecycle, which I think started off on Yahoo Groups. Basically it was a group, or a series of geographically dispersed groups of people who would post “Offers” and “Wants:” basically things they wanted to give away, and things they needed.

Unfortunately I never had much luck with Freecycle, mostly because I have issues with the website, which are still, apparently, ongoing, and group admins are quite picky about how you word your posts.

Fortunately a website came along that streamlined the entire process of using Freecycle: it’s called Trash Nothing. Trash Nothing is basically an interface to Freecycle that lets you easily post Offers and Wants in a way that isn’t going to upset a anal group moderator. It offers other cool features like integration with Facebook so your friends automatically see your offers, email notifications when a user posts an item, notifications when a user posts a specific type of items (I have notifications for “wood” and “books”), and they even have an iPhone app. When I’m working around the house and run into something that needs to go, I take the picture with my iPhone, and in 30 seconds I can have it posted to Trash Nothing.

Trash Nothing is fantastic for three reasons: the first is, obviously, it’s free. The second is that it’s members-only, and the third is that it’s moderates. So unlike CraigsList, spamming and scamming is minimal.

Earthineer

There’s another online resource that I’m keeping a close eye on called Earthineer. Earthineer is basically a social network for homesteaders, but it’s geared toward sharing information and resources, and less towards bitching about work and begging for Farmville cows. Earthineer is still pretty small and it might be hard to find a lot of folks in your area, but the people who are there are precisely the kind of folks that might be interested in giving, taking, or bartering for things you no longer need.

How to Stop (Some) Junk Mail

"15 credit card offers, but I still didn't get the latest issue of Jugs!"

“15 credit card offers, but I still didn’t get the latest issue of Jugs!”

You know what really annoys me?  Junk mail.

“Me too!” echoes a chorus of everyone, ever.

Before I get into some tree-hugging rant I’ll just throw a possible solution at you: www.dmachoice.orgwww.catalogchoice.org, and OptOutPrescreen.com. Go to these sites, sign up, and choose which types of direct mailing you do and done want to receive. It’s similar to the National Do Not Call Registry but for direct mail, and about as effective (take that as you will). In other words it will help, but it probably won’t totally eliminate your  junk mail.

Now, back to my rant.

What’s an environmentally-conscious geek to do about junk mail? Most single-stream recycling programs will take junk mail or shredded paper, and if you don’t have that option rural farmers love it because it makes great animal bedding. I know of several farms within a few miles of my town that have shacks along the road for people to drop off bags of such material.

But forget about all of that, because you’re smart and you remember your Three R’s and know that it’s always better to reduce than it is to reuse or recycle.  If the junk mail is never printed and sent in the first place, the environmental impact of it’s production, transport, and inevitable disposal never has to happen.  Plus you don’t have to figure out what to do with it, which is kind of the point here.

So check out the sites I mentioned above, and post below to let others know how they worked for you!