With contributions by Darcy Lambert, Jessica Prince, and Rachel Hadley
After we ourselves “Reuse” something, but before we “Recycle” it, there is a concept we really need to become aware of and do: we need to “Recirculate.” In other words….
As in, “I just scored this sweet rolling computer bag yesterday,” given away by a neighbor via an online community group.
But that would sound a bit too capitalistic of me. When really, it was very important for me to acquire a computer rolling bag as I start Climate Steps as its own nonprofit and have already begun public speaking, with needing to haul my computer and resource materials around. And as I am about quit my job to do this, I’m officially almost broke. So SCORE!
The point of this article is that it is a great climate step to join an online community group that supports the local exchange/re-circulation of resources, such as Freecycle, the Buy Nothing group for your area on Facebook, the Free section of Craigslist.com, Nextdoor.com, or just neighborhood listservs. With these, everyone circulates needed resources within the community – without shipping and packaging – and we buy far less stuff.
For instance, this year, I:
- Gave some different folks a box spring, gel packs, Styrofoam coolers, moving boxes, sewing patterns, and clothes hangers (and soon two nesting tables)
- Acquired the above perfect rolling computer bag, as well as candle-making supplies (thanks Laurie!), a frame, a bigger box spring (thanks Fia), two pots for plants, a toaster oven, a couple houseplants (thanks Susan), and as of two days ago, an audiobook.
- Lent out a stud-finder, an air compressor, and a folding table.
- Borrowed post-hole diggers, a hot plate, and a bread machine. (Thanks Melanie and Cathy for the last two!)
Folks mentioned in person are friends/neighbors from the Buy Nothing Group who are also Climate Steps website and/or CS Facebook followers and thus likely to see this article!
Kids stuff is very popular in these sites as well. As you can probably imagine.
Jessica, a great Climate Steps Facebook contributor, notes that in her Buy Nothing Group in Lilburn (West) & Tucker, Georgia, USA, “In just the past couple of months, I’ve gotten a TV, a printer, a toaster, a cell phone charging cable, and four bottles of almond milk + 10 yogurts! The only one of those that I “asked” for was the charging cable; the rest were “offers.” The newer printer – needed because of an incompatibility between my old printer and my work laptop – now means I can offer my old printer to someone in the group. This saves the purchase of two printers. I’ve also lent my crutches out a few times, as well as a folding table. It always feel good to see a need and be able to fill it.”
In a similar vein, another of our contributors, Darcy, adds: “Lending libraries! Lots of cities have lending libraries for tools and equipment, like gardening tools and construction stuff. Portland, Oregon, USA, has different tool-lending libraries in different neighborhoods. I have never found a lending library that doesn’t work with their local public library, so you can start there if an online search for a tool-lending library doesn’t bring up anything.”
By reusing/re-circulating/re-purposing/lending/borrowing resources, we save so much in the terms of the planet’s raw materials and in emissions. All of this stuff did not have to be made and then discarded – nor was packaging made and discarded.
Emissions were not created from manufacturing or transportation or the building and maintenance of box stores. Display lights did not burn electricity, and beads of styrofoam did not get washed into the ocean.
Instead, it’s a message, a walk or short drive, a view of your neighborhood or a visit to your library, a smile, and an exchange. As Jessica noted, you get to know your neighbors and see cases of generosity, such as new families receiving what’s needed to start a new home, help in an emergency, and food baked for special occasions. It even can mean setup help and expertise!
“When my housemate moved out with her television, my remaining housemate decided she would buy one, but I told her I’d ask for one on the Buy Nothing group. Before I could write the post, someone offered one! When I explained that I might have to wait until the afternoon because I was waiting for others to pick up items I’d offered, she brought it over to me and even set it up!…I’ve also received help by neighbors in this group in fixing tents …[with knitting needles no less]… and screen windows (Jessica).
Repair Cafes, something Darcy has used a lot, will be mentioned in another post all about Repair.
Further, the items recirculated within a community are usually valued and usually loved, and almost always in great shape – because items are not going to random strangers, but our neighbors.
Rachel Hadley, via Facebook, tells a wonderful story showing the incredible benefit one gets when one gives. Great kudos to Rachel.
“One of the regulars at the cafe down the street from me always says how she loves my winter coat and that she remembers the design (houndstooth) when she was younger. When I saw her this week she said if I ever want to get rid of it please think of her. Well, I took it off and handed it to her and said “Merry Christmas . ” The look on her face was so super rewarding. I hope I have that image in my mind forever. I have a thick reflective jacket that my job gave me, might as well just use that. Yay – now I don’t have to have two jackets hanging up. 😁👍”
Another type of recirculation is a clothing swap, via a party or just sharing, as Jessica describes:
I’ve been trying to go through all my clothes and determine those I no longer need, and I’ve already got a couple of boxes full. Once I’m done with the project, I’ll be passing the boxes along to other women who are the same size, who will take what they want and add their own items to the box. At some point, after we’ve all had a chance to look through it, we’ll take the remaining clothes and donate them. I’ve already received a few items from others to add to the box – and have taken out a dress and a top for myself.“
But where would this blog be if, of course, we didn’t talk about recirculating useful stuff, including art, and apparently giant rubber boots (see picture below), through yard sales.
Where you never know what stuff you may find. (Not junk – I would never call it junk.)
But back to online communities…
“I have had lots of success with buying/selling/giving away/getting stuff on Craigslist. For online lists like this I like to give myself a timeline – like I’ll check these lists for a table for two months, and if I don’t get one for free in that time, then maybe will look at the “for sale” section on Craigslist or will go to thrift stores.” (Darcy)
We’ll talk more about donations and thrifting in another blog! Though I do want to mention that donations especially are critical to sharing wealth – it would be a sad state of affairs if recirculating resources just happened within a wealthy, insular community, for instance. Donations helps others get in on the circular economy. For instance, at work we’re organizing a clothing drive centered around professional work clothing. I’m excited to see what people will be sharing. And no, I don’t expect to take any myself.
[P.S. One would assume that most people would think of at least donating, but having just walked by boxes of trash on the sidewalk yesterday, no, folks still need to wake up. By the way, again – SCORE! Three bead-covered pumpkins and one large gourd – these will be cleaned up and put to good use.]
As Jessica, Darcy, and I all mentioned one way or another when we talked about this article, joining a Buy Nothing or similar group makes one consider first, actually, whether you can fit a need/solve a problem by re-purposing something else or borrowing, or whether you need that item permanently via the online community or thrift stores. The last thought on one’s mind then becomes buying from large-scale box stores. Also, as Jessica noted, you also learn to let go of things – but in a way that helps other people.
To sum, the internet has helped us create a way to really help people find what they need quickly and easily — and are creating vast efficiencies that we hope will help drive reuse/recirculating/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Both nationally/globally (like via the sites Etsy, Ebay, Thred-up, Attic, and many more) – and, critically, through the lovely neighborhood online communities described here, where packaging and transportation by truck is not required.
Re-circulating is far closer to a circular economy AND builds the community resilience that will be needed in the future as we fight and adapt to the climate crisis.
Sharing the news of these neighborhood reuse communities, why you’ve joined, and what you given and found, would further build your community and fight climate change, of course. Jessica, Darcy, and I recommend joining or creating these groups, and then talking about the opportunities in your neighborhood listservs!
UPDATE: Because of this article, Cory Chow – the founder of the BuyNothing group in my neighborhood, and I were on the Kojo Nnamdi show on NPR. We covered some interesting aspects of recirculating items – so check it out: Kojo Nmadi show! https://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2019-11-13/the-gifting-economy-in-d-c.