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Photo By Times-Gazette photo/Tom E. Puskar
Sallie and Ken Cooper pose with some of the things (computer monitor, canister set and breadmaker) they have obtained through Freecycling.

7-16-07

Times-Gazette.com

Another way to recycle / Avid recyclers enjoy trading items with others through Freecycling

11 hours ago

By JARRED OPATZ

T-G Special Projects Editor

Ken and Sallie Cooper got their computer monitor from a lady in Jeromesville, their bread machine from a Sullivan resident and their vintage canisters from someone in Mansfield.

They didn't have to pay for any of them.

The Rowsburg-area couple got the items through freecycling -- a grassroots, nonprofit movement of people who give and get stuff for free that really has grown since it began four years ago in Tucson, Ariz.

The Freecycle Network is made up of more than 4,000 individual groups across the globe with more than 3 million members, according The Freecycle Network Web site, www.freecycle.org.

Members contact each other through e-mail to get and give away things that otherwise might end up in the trash by joining local Freecycle groups. The Coopers belong to both the Ashland County and Mansfield groups, which have 724 and 1,269 members, respectively. It's free to sign up for a group, but there are guidelines to follow, such as not reselling items received from freecycling or not just joining to get things.

"There are some people who get into it just to get stuff, but I think most people are glad to trade things, get rid of stuff and not have to throw it away," Sallie said.

"It's a good thing, but, like with anything, you have some people who abuse the system," she added.

The Coopers have given away quite a bit of things through freecycling, too, such as organic tomato plants, clothing and canisters.

"I had some blue canisters he bought at an auction," Sallie said looking at her husband one day last week while talking about their experiences with freecycling to a reporter in their rural home. "They were really nice, but I had a pink kitchen and didn't use them.

"So, when I had a chance to get these," she added pointing to the canister set she now has in her kitchen she got through freecycling, "I freecycled the blue ones."

For the Coopers, freecycling has fit their lifestyle perfectly. They have been avid recyclers for many years and they like to live a simple, frugal lifestyle.

"We're big recyclers," Ken said. "I would rather recycle something than send it to the dump."

Freecycling has given the Coopers another "recycling" option with the benefit of getting things they usually need and not having to throw away things they don't need and can't take to the Recycling Center.

"We don't throw away things unless there's no alternative," Sallie said. "In the process," she added looking at stereo speakers and a few of the other things she has decorated her house with through freecycling with a big smile. "I really like my stereo speakers. They would have taken up a lot of room in a landfill."

If there's something the Coopers want, they can post an offer on the group's Web site or goes to members' e-mails.

"If you're the first one to respond, you're mostly the one to get it," Sallie said. "Most people will respond to the first person who responds to their ad."

Freestyle discourages sharing private information with the group, such as phone numbers and addresses.

"A lot of times when you're dealing with someone you don't even exchange phone numbers," Sallie said. "You just contact through e-mail, and a lot of times it's just on a first-name basis."

"A lot of times you don't even meet the people," Ken said. "If you're not going to be here and someone is coming to pick something up, you just leave it on the porch or where ever."

What makes it fun is some of the unique things you can find with freecycling or unique ways people use some of the things you give them, the Coopers agreed.

"When we moved to our home (about a year ago) we had a barn full of stuff we gave away through Freecycle," Sallie said. "We had a lot of huge wooden spools we got rid of. One couple from Jeromesville had the most unique reason for getting some of them. They had goats and said they were going to make pyramids for the goats to climb because goats love to climb."

Muscovy ducks have been the most unique things the Coopers have gotten through Freecycle.

"We had talked about getting ducks," Sallie said. "We really liked Muscovy ducks. I had read a lot about them. They are really unique ducks.

"Then, a lady in the Polk area had an ad for Muscovy ducks, and I thought, 'What are the odds?' " Sallie added.

The Coopers have four Muscovy ducks, which they said are quiet ducks who don't quack. They eat the eggs they get from the three females.

A basket of yarn from a Nankin woman is another interesting item they have received through freecycling, Sallie said.

As much as they enjoy the things they receive and get rid of through Freecycle, the Coopers said they mostly do it because they believe in the movement to reduce waste and ease the burden on landfills.

"We have grown up as a nation of mass consumers and a throw-away society," Sallie said. "We have to stop that.

"This seems like a small thing," Sallie added about freecycling. "But when there are so many people doing small things, it makes a difference. I think this makes a difference."

Jarred Opatz can be reached at 419-281-0581, ext. 256, or by e-mail at jopatz@times-gazette.com, regarding this story and other story ideas.

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