Did you know that you can give Christmas presents to everyone in your family without spending a single penny,* and in the process, you can play one small part in saving our planet? You can, and we’re here to show you how.
The first thing we recommend you do is get your entire family together to discuss this year’s gift-giving process, since it will be different than previous holiday seasons. (Kids can be excluded from the meeting, since they generally don’t buy gifts, but note the extra special gift you can give to small kids for free at the end of the article). We also recommend holding this meeting as early in the year as possible, because this year’s gift-giving may involve more time to find the right gifts for everyone on your list. In fact, it’s really never to early in the year to start gathering gifts for Christmas, so don’t wait too long to start.
At your family meeting, explain to everyone that this year’s gift-giving can be different than ever before. The family will (hopefully) agree that all presents will cost $0. Of course, they will all want to know how they are supposed to come up with gifts that cost nothing. That’s when you’ll explain about Free Recycling (also known as Free Use, Free Sharing, FreeGiving, or simply Person-to-Person Recycling. Here’s how it works.
Organizations around the world help organize small, local subgroups to list their goods that they are willing to give away for free. There are literally millions of people across the world who participate in these groups (via online message boards), and it is highly likely that there is a group near you. The premise is simple. You sign up to a local online group (or several in your area). Someone in your local group lists an item to be given away (commonly called an OFFER). Any members of the group who would like to have the item can respond to the offer. The giver is free to choose whomever she wants to give the item to, informs the recipient, and they arrange for the transfer of the item.
Just like that several things have happened:
- Someone has gotten rid of something that has cluttered up their home.
- Someone has helped to keep an item out of a landfill.
- Someone has received an item that they wanted.
- And in the case of our Christmas gift list, someone has been able to give a gift for the cost of $0.
Because each group is local and independently operated, different rules apply with each but most follow some general standards, such as requiring that items must be free, family-friendly and legal. Items usually can be in less than perfect condition, and honesty about the condition is required.
If you need to convince your family that this year’s gift-giving will be extra special by going this route, here are a few talking points you can try:
- Gifts that take time and effort to get are often much more special than something hastily bought at a store. These gifts require actually thinking and planning, and that makes it personal and special.
- Since some items may not be in perfect condition, this gives everyone an opportunity to add their own touch to the item. Maybe you’ll need to paint it a new, shiny color. Maybe just a couple of colorful stickers applied in just the right places will hide a few flaws. Whatever needs to be done will require a little love and attention on the giver’s part – and will result in loving memories for the recipient
- Every member of the family can feel good about helping the environment by keeping reusable items out of landfills.
Once everyone agrees to the new rules for this holiday season, they’ll want to know how to get started. You can give everyone a list of the various Free Recycling sites on the Internet. Each site explains how to use it, and the instructions are easy to follow, so just hand your family members the list of URLs, and let the reusing begin!
Here’s a list to get you started:
- FreeUse.org: The FreeUse Network
- Freecycle.org: The Freecycle Network
One last thing to remind your family: Follow all normal safety precautions when arranging to swap goods. Ask to meet in a well-lit, public place, or to pick up the item from the front porch if necessary. Use normal precautions.
As promised, there’s even a special free gift for the young kids in the family. You can print out a free, personalized Christmas story for each of them. Just put in a child’s first name, and he or she instantly becomes the star of a sweet Christmas story. Two fun stories are available, and both are free. Just print out on your printer, and read to the little ones in the evenings as Christmas nears. Their eyes will sparkle and it will be a memory that lasts a lifetime. The first Christmas story features your child as they go on a grand Christmas adventure to the North Pole, and the second personalized children’s story is a sweet Christmas friendship story between your child and a shy moose.
* Note: We aren’t counting the cost of gas to drive to a local spot to get the recycled gift, of course. In addition, if a gift has to have a coat of paint applied, or other work done on it, we hope you can manage it with supplies you already have on hand, rather than having to purchase any fix-it supplies.