Nine months ago, Vishal Dhaybhai, 31, a design entrepreneur from Udaipur in Rajasthan, was looking for an affordable smartphone. His friends suggested that he get a second-hand one, and directed him to a local store called Dariya Dil Dukaan (DDD).
“When I got there, I found a couple of smartphones that looked good and were in good condition,” says Dhaybhai, “I asked the price, and they told me the phones were free. I was delighted, and picked one.” Back home with his free new phone, Dhaybhai had a thought. “The next day, I went back and gave them my old phone, which was still in good condition,” he says.
“I felt, if a stranger could share something and make me happy, I should do the same for someone else.”
That, in essence, is the principle of freecycling, a philosophy that originated in the US, encouraging consumers to recycle goods by passing them on for free- and take from a common pool of donated goods, rather than buying fresh merchandise.
I can freecycle it, my daughter-in-law said.Freecycle, I learnt, is a worldwide, registered network of groups. It’s a movement of people to give and get stuff for free in their own localities and thereby keep good stuff out of landfills. Freecycle members post their offers for things they have no use for and interested members pick up the item from the designated spot.
Who would want a broken suitcase in this neighbourhood, I asked. Apparently someone did and the box got taken from the porch within hours of posting!
The Freecycle Network is an example of this. The concept is as simple as it is revolutionary. A non-profit organisation with a global network provides a one-stop forum for those wishing to acquire items – from furniture to electronic gadgets – and those wishing to dispose them of, all completely free. Car-sharing services are another such innovation. A vast network of registered users can pick up a car from any of a number of parking spots, use it for as long as necessary, pay by the hour then leave it at another convenient spot. Or, on a more intimate scale, the utilisation of ‘crowd wisdom’ that networking sites such as Twitter have made possible, enabling any user to benefit from the real-time expertise of a large number of individuals. At a time when the global economy is far from robust, such resource efficient and environmentally friendly models capture the spirit of the times.
If you put your head to it, there are solutions you can work out for most things. Outside our own kitchen stand two fridges. But only one cools food and water — the other one, an old non-functional one, we use as a storage cabinet for our documents. Then there’s this mail I recently received through something called a Freecycle network (www.freecycle.org) — a woman in Panjim offering to collect used milk packets from others, compile them into batches of 100, exchange each batch for a fresh milk packet (a scheme offered by Goa Dairy), and pass the packets thus obtained to a local animal shelter. For free. Like I said earlier, there are many people out there doing good things. You just have to look around.