Sunday, 18 May 2008

Freecycle and LETS

I've been having great fun 'shopping' using Freecycle just recently.

Freecycle is a wonderful organisation that makes marvelous use of the internet's capacity for networking.

People who live in the same geographical area join an email list and post offers and wants. When someone has an item they no longer want to keep they post an offer email describing the item and their postcode and people respond off list to them if they would like the item. If there are several people wanting the item, then the owner of the item gets to choose who they will give it to.

The fortunate person chosen then arranges a day/time to pick up the item and the original owner posts a 'taken' email to let everyone know it has gone.

If anyone wants a specific item they can post a 'wanted' email and people who can oblige let them know.

This system has two big advantages. It keeps items out of the rubbish dumps and helps those who are short of money.

I needed something to store books etc on a while ago and claimed a large and sturdy shelving unit. It is doing a marvelous job. As it would be impossible to transport it on my bike I 'employed' a driver to collect it for me.

The 'employing' of a driver is also a good story. I am a member of LETS. I think it stands for Local Exchange and Trading System. People in this organisation let other members know what they can/are willing to do for other people. This is collated in a directory. So when someone wants a service they look in the directory and asks a person who has listed that skill/service. So when I needed the shelf transporting I asked a guy who listed this service and he collected it for me. He charged me '5 Readies' and £2 for petrol.

The people of Reading call their LETS currency 'Readies' which is a play on the town name and a slang term for pounds. In the town of Wakefield the currency is 'Locks', which is a reference to the canal locks, of which there are quite a few in the area.

I remember when I was incapacitated with the 'flu for a few weeks when my girls were young. I could only drag myself downstairs to the sofa so I was around and aware of what they were doing. I could not cook for them, take them to school or shop for food. Fortunately a neighbour took my youngest, Claire to school with her daughter. And Helen was old enough and sensible enough to make beans of toast. I also wrote a note so she could get the child benefit money from the post office and buy a few items of food from the local shop.

My pride and independent spirit did not want to burden friends and neighbours with things that needed doing and I thought it would be great to have a system where you could ask people to do things and not feel obligated because you could in turn do things either for them or someone else. I had not got all the details worked out but knew some scheme like that would have been so useful to me then, and to others as well.

When I moved to Wakefield and discovered LETS I was relieved that someone had already thought through the idea and that I could slot into it without reinventing the wheel.

The main service I offer at the moment is EFT and earned a few Readies helping a certain lady over a series of weeks.

Everyone who joins is given some Readies to start them off trading. I remember in Wakefield several people would offer surplus vegetables from their garden. And I asked someone to help me clear my overgrown garden. Recently I have asked someone to come and mend a broken drawer, change a wheel on my bike and of course transport my Freecycle goods.

It is good that these two organisations work hand in hand so well.