Utne Blogs > Environment

A Guide to Reusing, Swapping, or Giving Away Just About Everything

 by Danielle Maestretti

Tags: Environment, moving, cleaning, reusing, swapping, recycling, Danielle Maestretti,

We’re approaching moving season, which in many cities is marked by overflowing trash cans, rain-soaked mattresses stacked on curbs, and gas-guzzling U-Haul trailers being dragged to and fro. The whole process is hard on the environment—not to mention the pocketbook and the nerves—but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re planning a move, or just gearing up for some belated spring cleaning, here’s a quick guide to keeping your old stuff out of the landfill and finding some new duds on the cheap while you’re at it. 

pile of booksBooks, movies, and other media: Eco-blogger Green LA Girl recommends Swaptree, an easy-to-use site that lets you trade your unwanted books, music, movies, and video games for media you’re actually interested in. For example, you send away The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and someone sends you a Little Miss Sunshine DVD. Swaptree even prepares a mailing label for you to print, which means no inconvenient trips to the post office. (Zunafish and BarterBee are similar sites.)

Just books: Try book-swapping sites BookMooch and PaperBackSwap (also courtesy of Green LA Girl).

Clothing: If there’s a Swap-O-Rama-Rama in your neck of the woods, grab a big bag of clothes, a little bit of cash, and head on over. You can swap-and-go, if that’s your preference, or stick around and use a sewing station to turn someone else’s old T-shirt into something you’ll love. (There are artists on-site to help with sewing, embroidering, knitting, etc.) For something a bit less DIY, try Swapstyle.com, which is more of a straight-up online fashion exchange. If you’re just looking to donate to a good cause, Dress for Success will pass along your business attire to low-income women building their careers, and the Glass Slipper Project will give your prom dress to a Chicago high school student who can’t afford her own. “Ready to Rewear,” from our March-April 2007 issue, has additional tips. And the new book Wake Up and Smell the Planet points out that even your holiest socks can be put to good use: Goodwill sends away its rattier stock to be recycled or reused.vintage toys

Kids’ stuff: At Zwaggle, families earn points by giving clothes, strollers, car seats, and all the other kid stuff you can think of to other members of the site. You earn “zoints” for each item donated, which you can then cash in for new-to-you goods from other families.  

Furniture, etc.: If you’re drowning in stuff and just looking to unload, try Throwplace, a site that matches your extra futon or underused toaster oven with charities and nonprofits that need them. For both buying and selling, the old standbys Craigslist and Freecycle rarely disappoint.

Computers: For newish computer equipment, Sierra’s Answer Guy, Bob Schildgen, recommends Share the Technology, which lists schools and nonprofits seeking technology. Grist suggests the National Cristina Foundation, which will find a deserving home for your computer, printer, or software.

Electronics: CollectiveGood may be able to fix up your old-school Nokia and put it to good use; if not, they’ll recycle it, Grist says. GreenDisk will also recycle your old electronics (even cables and cases), and you can now recycle e-waste at select post offices, reports Sustainable Industries—just be sure to check that your post office is one of the 1,500 participating in the program.

Any other suggestions? Chat in the Utne salons.

Images by Matt Seppings and amy_b, licensed under Creative Commons.