VeganMoFo, Day 23: Frugal vegans freecycle (or is that freegancycle?).

October 23rd, 2009 4:53 pm by Kelly Garbato

2008-09-20 - Butterflies & Bees - 0001

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Freecycle ™ is a network of local groups (primarily hosted on Yahoo, though the renegade/breakaway chapters aren’t necessarily) that allow members to request items they need, and offer items that they need to get rid of. It’s much like Craigslist, with one significant difference: everything offered and requested must be 100% free. Membership is also free, as are all ads. (Full disclosure: I founded and moderate my local group – a fact which doesn’t necessarily bias me in favor of the concept. I kid, I kid.)

Of course, you can’t get any cheaper than free! While food isn’t necessarily the most popular category of freecycled goods – methinks that honor goes to secondhand clothing, or perhaps household items – it is possible to score some yummy vegan finds.

– Expired food is perhaps the most popular edible commodity, and while I recommend caution when buying/trading/eating expired food, many non-perishable foods can be consumed well beyond the expiration date. Even perishable goods, such as soy milk and yogurt, are usually okay for up to a week after the expiration date. Just be sure to do your homework – and when in doubt, throw it out.

– Occasionally you’ll also see members offer up specialty vegan or vegetarian foods. Perhaps someone decided to give Meatless Mondays a try, bought a box of Boca Burgers at Sam’s, and decided they didn’t care for them. While this is certainly a hit for Team Vegan, there’s no need to let perfectly good food go to waste. Their loss is your gain.

– The summer and autumn months are an especially fruitful time for vegans on Freecycle: it’s not uncommon for green-thumbed, kind-hearted members to offer up excess fruits, vegetables, nuts and even plants on the list. Among the fresh vegan foods I’ve seen change hands on my local list are green and red tomatoes; walnuts; pecans; apples; peaches; pears; strawberries; and all manner of fruit, veggies, herbs, and flowering plants. Trees and shrubs, too!

Naturally, vegan freecyclers need not limit themselves to food! Commonly freecycled items include secondhand clothing; hand-me-down furniture; small appliances, including the very popular but rarely used bread machines; larger appliances, usually older and displaced due to renovations; books; and crafting materials.

To find a group close to home, you have three options: browse the groups listed at freecycle.org; search for a group on Yahoo; or run a more comprehensive internet search with Google or similar. In addition to the “sanctioned” Freecycle groups, there are a number of similar – but non-affiliated – “free” or “cheap” classified ad-type groups around the nation. Craigslist, too, has a section devoted to “for free” listings.

On the downside, Freecycle.org only requires that Freecycle groups “keep it free, legal, and appropriate for all ages.” Beyond this, local groups are somewhat free to set their own rules, so you will some variation in group rules and regulations. Many allow nonhuman animal listings, which is both hugely depressing and dangerous for the animals “freecycled” this way. Consider yourself lucky if your local moderators are progressive and forward-thinking enough to prohibit “pet ads” on the list; if not, you can either try to avoid the listings, or look for another list. (ETA: Craigslist allows animal listings as well. Urg.)

Personally, I’ve both given on gotten on Freecycle. Most memorably, last summer I unexpectedly found myself with five apple trees, all overflowing with green and red fruit. It was more than I could eat – or even process and store (I made applesauce, fruit leather, dehydrated apples, and plenty of fresh snacks) – so I ended up giving away a good 120 grocery bags filled to bursting with apples on Freecycle. Even after that, I kept about 40 bags for myself, and another 40 or so went to the deers, bees and butterflies (pictured above). While I really wanted to donate the excess to an animal rescue group, the closest farmed animal sanctuary is over four hours away, in St. Louis – not really do-able. Splitting the extra food between local human families in need was the next best thing.

Likewise, I’ve also received some cool stuff on Freecycle: an old poker table, some extra blankets for the dogs, a cork bulletin board that still graces my kitchen wall, some five years later – and a huge lot of The Vegetarian Times magazine. No food (yet!), but then again, we’re rather picky – we live so far outside the city that many items aren’t worth the travel; both time- and gas-wise.

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One Response to “VeganMoFo, Day 23: Frugal vegans freecycle (or is that freegancycle?).”

  1. The Return of “Frugal Vegans…” & delicious-ness, Hoarded » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] VeganMoFo, Day 23: Frugal vegans freecycle (or is that freegancycle?). […]

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