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Be Green

Shopping... for FREE!

Shopping is the urban equivalent of hunting. And today we're going to talk about a shopping option that will please not only your conscience and eco-meter, but also your financial planner.
Ever heard of Freecycle? It's a non-profit website that's run entirely by volunteers. The idea is to create a space where people can come to give away things that they're done with or ask for things that they'd rather not pay for.
Freecycle has chapters all over the world and one right here in Montreal. All you have to do is follow the links and join the Yahoo group. In exchange, you'll get instant emails with offers of free clothes, books, exercise equipment, furniture, board games, toys and more.
Interested? I thought you might be.

So here's how it works:
1. Log onto freecycle.org
Follow the links to the Montreal Yahoo! group and join. You might need to get a Yahoo! email address just for this... a pain, I know, but worth it.
2. Choose your frequency preference: You have the choice to get an email update every time someone posts an item or request. Or, you could subscribe to the twice-a-day digest version. Know that highly desirable items tend to get spoken for quite fast. So you'd have to weigh the annoyance of having an inbox full of freecycle emails against the odds that you'd be the one to win the item.

That's it. Those are the steps!

On Freecycle, you can post things you don't want any more or ask for things you do. Here's how it works:
You read a post and contact the "seller". If the seller picks you, you simply arrange for a time and place to meet for the exchange. You go home with your free item! Simple as that.

SAFETY: If, like me, you'd have reservations about giving a perfect stranger your address, simply arrange to meet at a third location. Pick a well-lit public space and let a friend know what you're doing (and give them contact info for the person you're meeting). You can always ask a friend to go along with you for added security as well. Alternatively, you can offer to mail or drop off the item at the reciever's address.

Of course, these steps are just in case you're worried. Most freecyclers do exchanges at home and Montreal moderator Jennifer Cessford says there haven't been any reports of anything more sinister than a no-show.

The Rules:

Just so you know, there are things you won't find on freecycle:
* Services: Folks are not supposed to post anything other than tangible objects. So if you're a wedding photographer looking for contacts, know that your post is going to be pulled. And if you try this stunt too often, you might get kicked out of the group.
* Photos: Unlike ebay and craigslist, there are no photos with the posts on freecycle. That's to keep it light and easy. Of course, if you're really interested in an item, you can always send a personal email to the seller and ask for details and pix.
* Fees: No posting fees, no membership fees and no prices on anything posted. Ever.

If you want to sell:
For items that are worth some moolah... or for more enterprising types, freecycle isn't your only option.
Check out Craigslist, kijiji, and ebay.
The difference of course is that on these sites, very little is free.

Now it's your turn: do you have a story like Jennifer's (watch the video) where you have a beloved object that you've bought secondhand or freecycled? I'd love to read/hear your stories. Simply leave me a comment or call our talkback line. (514) 597-5626

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