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Free to Freecycle

Some of the best tools are extremely simple and functional. And lately, I've been enamored with the Freecycle Network, a loosely knit group of people around the world who are dedicating to reusing cast-off items — and thereby reducing the amount of waste they create.

Like Craigslist, eBay, and even Amazon Marketplace, it's a great way to get rid of Stuff You Don't Want, and while I use it as a sort of last resort — say, if I can't unload something through one of the paying channels — it's also an active, breathing embodiment of a philosophy of sorts. Even though making an exchange can be as easy as posting an item on the list, making arrangements for pickup with whomever expresses interest, and carrying it downstairs for them to cart off — there's an energy and a spirit behind it that impresses me.

Tonight, I met Cecilia. She wanted several shopping bags of empty CD jewel cases that I'd posted a day or so ago. As I loaded the bags into her car, she told me that her husband was a musician, that he had a home studio, and that "empty CD cases are always useful."

Not only did I get rid of what could have been garbage, but I got to meet someone I might not have encountered otherwise — and I got a story.

The model is simple to the extreme — a series of Yahoo! Groups — but it works. And that's wonderful.