With those three words, Deron Beal of Tucson, Ariz., helped move the yard sale online, only with no money changing hands.
Beal is the founder of The Freecycle Network, or Freecycle.org. It’s a grassroots gifting network that — thanks to the sour economy and a growing commitment to the environment — has transformed into a global movement of millions offering, wanting and taking all manner of stuff.
Staffed by volunteer moderators and loosely overseen by Beal, Freecycle aims to let you share your old TVs, clothes, broken blenders, tire chains and moving boxes with people nearby, using e-mail groups at Yahoo! and on the network’s website.
Back in 2003, for example, Deron Beal sent an E-mail announcing his new Freecycle Network to friends in Tucson, Ariz., who he thought would be willing to give unwanted items like vacuum cleaners and computers away rather than have them and their toxic elements end up in landfills. “We have about 10,000 volunteers globally” now, says Beal. “We have about 7.5 million members in 110 countries and have done so as a charity with no fees,” pretty impressive given that “the founder had no tech skills.” Initially, Freecycle used Yahoo Groups to connect people who wanted to give away items with those willing to pick them up. Today, the nonprofit uses so-called open-source software, downloaded without charge, to manage its growing network.