Cycle of stuff

Hand-me-downs meet the 21st century
Friday, July 9, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:54 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

More than 500 residents of Columbia and Boone County are using a new Web site to get rid of their old stuff and, in some cases, getting something new and helping promote waste reduction. The Freecycle Network, a Tucson-based non-profit group, launched the site last fall to prevent local landfills from filling up.

Since then, more than 880 cities, including Columbia, and more than 190,000 people have joined the network. Each city has a Freecycle Web site that anyone in the area can join. Once your name is on the list you can post items you would like to have or get rid of by sending an e-mail. Each city’s Web site is run by a moderator who makes sure the postings are “free, legal, and appropriate for all ages.”

Greg Baka, Columbia’s moderator, started the Columbia Freecycle in October after he heard about it from another e-mail list. After going to and seeing that there wasn’t a site for Columbia, he set one up.

“I thought, wow, that would be something great to have here,” Baka said. “It was such a cool idea.”

The list now has about 525 people in the Columbia and Boone County area, and the list is growing every day. The idea behind Freecycle is to allow people to get rid of things they don’t want without putting them out on the curb.

“It keeps items out of the trash,” Baka said, “and it keeps people from buying things all the time.”

Kim Reynolds of Columbia has been Freecycling since it started in October. “It’s been great,” Reynolds said. “I’ve given away stuff I thought no one would want.”

Reynolds likes to donate her stuff to charities, but finds Freecycle more satisfying because she can meet the people who respond to the offers and sometimes they’ll explain how they’re going to put the hand-me-downs to use.

“It’s knowing that somebody gets something that you no longer need and the satisfaction of knowing they actually need it,” Reynolds said, “When you donate you don’t actually know if it’s going to get used.”

Reynolds said the best thing she and her husband received were golf clubs and a golf bag. She also picked up a toddler slide and some “really good books.” Reynolds once posted some dirt that was in their driveway left over from landscaping.

“Fifteen people responded,” she said.

Baka and other Freecyclers have said that another benefit of the network is meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily encounter.

“It’s a way to meet our neighbors in a safe medium,” Baka said.

Melanie Vonfange of Columbia joined Freecycle last month and has received responses simply because her e-mail signature line has a Martin Luther King Jr. quote. “You can connect with people who have things in common with you,” Vonfange said.

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