Freecycling Comes to Facebook

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Got a couch, TV or set of dishes in good condition that you need to get rid of?

Now you can find a new home for your unwanted, but usable goods while you update your Facebook status.

Online classifieds company Oodle is launching new FreeCircle communities on Facebook, allowing neighbors to offer reusable items to each other and search for items they want for free. Oodle is initially setting up these groups for cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, but will soon be expanding the program to other cities across the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.

“Oodle’s Marketplace has always promoted reusing items,” says Mark Robins, Oodle’s vice president of community. “Today we’ve made the process a lot easier. Once you join your local FreeCircle, you can search for and claim free stuff, get rid of things you’re not using or post a message requesting something that you are looking for.”

The idea of freecycling – the act of giving away usable, unwanted goods for free rather than disposing of them in landfills – isn’t new, but bringing this concept of sharing and reuse to the world’s largest social network is.

Oodle’s FreeCircles introduce freecycling to a huge audience: About 65 percent of U.S. online consumers are currently active on Facebook, and the average Facebook user spends eight hours on the site every month, according to ExactTarget. Plus, Oodle’s Marketplace already has over 13 million unique monthly users.

READ: Facebook Game Upcycles Trash for Charity

Security, convenience, bells and whistles

Oodle says its freecycling communities offer advantages over anonymous online classifieds or email groups: from security and convenience to extra bells and whistles.

Unlike anonymous online classifieds or email groups, each FreeCircle member’s account is linked to a Facebook profile, so you can see a real name, a photo and any friends you have in common. Being able to verify your fellow community member’s identity makes transactions safer for members and potentially more reliable, Oodle says. Participants in a FreeCircle community may be less likely than members of other groups to agree to pick up an item, but then fail to show up.

While email groups don’t have the capacity to both include photos with emails and save them on the group website, FreeCircle members can post up to 10 photos of an item for giveaway. When an item has been claimed, FreeCirclers can click a “mark as taken” button, letting other members know the item is off the market, instead of sending out a mass email to the group.

FreeCircle participants can also post or search for items using Oodle’s smart phone apps.

“With the Marketplace mobile app, you can photograph an item with your phone and offer it to your neighbors in under a minute,” Robins says.

To show members the environmental benefits of their freecycling, each FreeCircle features a graph displaying the number of items saved from the landfill in recent months.

No takers for a posted item? FreeCircle refers members who can’t find a new home for their unwanted goods to Earth911’s recycling directory, so they can find other environmentally-friendly ways to get rid of their old stuff.

READ: A Road Trip Through America’s Thrift Stores

Bay Area freecyclers try FreeCircle

So far, participants in Bay Area FreeCircles have reported positive experiences using the new freecycling communities on Facebook.

“I posted a two-year-old printer that was in great condition, and three weeks later it found a new home with another person in my very own city,” said Vincent Ferro, co-moderator of the San Bruno, Calif., FreeCircle and recycling coordinator for several Bay Area cities. “What’s cool and different about the Oodle FreeCircle, compared to similar old school email-to-email item-sharing groups, is that [it] uses the social media power of Facebook…to easily find a new home for your unwanted item.”

Srihari Yamanoor runs Palo Alto Free, the largest freecycling Yahoo group in Palo Alto, Calif., that boasts over 3,600 members. He uses Oodle’s “Promote My Group” tools to help moderators of existing freecycling communities grow their membership by publicizing listings to local Oodle Marketplace users and users of Earth911’s directory.

“FreeCircles leverages Facebook to more broadly promote my freecycling community,” Yamanoor said. “I strongly encourage other freecycling moderators to take advantage of this opportunity to fuel the zero waste movement.”

READ: 10 Back-to-School Items to Buy Used

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