Power of One - Freecycle.org



Freecycle's Deron Beal
Brendan Moore for TIME


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The lightbulb went off the day I realized that while recycling is great, if someone is able to reuse the stuff you no longer want, like your old sofa, you're keeping not just a 100-lb. sofa out of a landfill but also 20 to 40 times that in the raw materials needed to make a new sofa.





We started storing these items in a warehouse, and I would try to find new homes for them at nonprofits. As that warehouse filled up with things that had no real monetary value, I realized that to reuse it all, we had to find a way to connect people directly.


So we started a Yahoo! group with 20 or 30 people. The first item posted was my mattress, since my now wife and I were moving in together. Because I was posting so many things from that warehouse, other people got the concept really quickly--that this was a sort of cybercurbside where you could find things in your area to pick up and drop off.


It's a concept that was able to go viral very quickly. A year after we had set up Freecycle.org we had a million members. Today we move 24,000 items a day, helping everyone from a 92-year-old man who collects bike parts so he can rebuild bikes for children to a kid who has set up an orphanage for unwanted guinea pigs.


The goal now, with our new mobile application, is to reach the developing world, where people don't have computers. We're even starting to see some government buy-in; the EPA has referred to us as a "revolution in reuse."
Across our network of nearly 7 million members, we reuse 700 tons of material a day--that's the equivalent of what arrives at a midsize landfill daily. There's one less landfill in the world because of this little website.