All hail the dumpster-divers!
Well, not really. One marked quality of the San Francisco hippie movement prior to the disastrous Summer of Love was the creation of free stores. It was a free swapping ground where you could bring unwanted items and also pick up things you’d need free of charge. Some aren’t exchange network. In fact, current freecycle networks forbid exchanging goods. Goods change hands but to tit-for-tat swap is bartering and this is not allowed.
Regular participants, dumpster divers included, are considered Freegans. One motivation is to keep items out landfills.
“ Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed.”
And so let the diver beware. The problem with freecycling and free gifting is that there’s no accountability. The freegan must use common sense when accepting used items. Some things, like car seats or motorcycle helmets, may not be safe for regular use and deficiencies might not be detected via a visual inspection.
Some of the popular networks have tens of thousands of participants and span the globe in active networking circles.
A good example of an active international group is The Freecycle Network.
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,035 groups with 8,917,299 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers. Membership is free.
Here are some tips to start your own free store, Really Really Free Market, or swap:
Find a location. Organizers recommend finding a central location where everyone will feel comfortable, such as a community center, house of worship, school yard, public park, or empty city lot. You might have to pay a permit fee to hold them in city-owned lots, but you can creatively fundraise to cover the cost.
Attract volunteers. Colleges and universities are great recruiting grounds for volunteers. Also, don’t be afraid to approach religious congregations, given that many houses of worship focus on helping the poor. And reach out to any local groups that support the creation of an economy based on sharing and reuse.
Advertise in the community. Passing out flyers and hanging posters is a good start, but also visit your neighbors personally and canvass local apartment buildings. Hang banners at major intersections and in community hangouts like libraries and fitness centers. Consider printing materials in more than one language to help non- English speakers.
Get items to “sell.” Post “wanted” notices in every local gathering place, from libraries to supermarkets to local shops. Take advantage of the changing seasons when many people are cleaning out their closets and drawers preparing to make room for their summer or winter clothes. Offer to pick up items or have one dropoff location to make it easy for people to donate their stuff. You might even accept drop-offs on the same day as the market. Make sure the goods you are “selling” are of good quality. New York’s Real Really Free Market has a group of volunteers to screen items.
Attract attention. If your market is going to be outdoors, ask volunteers to set up activities and entertainment that may pique the interest of passersby. Music, dancing, juggling, activities for children— you’d be surprised at the talents that people in your community can showcase. You might also ask volunteers to make deliveries by bike or have some on standby who can deliver large items in a van.
Have a plan for leftover items. Talk to your local Goodwill or charity shop in advance to see if it would like leftover donations. Or, volunteers may be willing to store items for the next market.