Freecycling is a grassroots effort by people who are giving and getting used items for free and keeping usable stuff out of local landfills. The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission (Friends EBEC), a nonprofit citizens group dedicated to local environmental education and conservation, has sponsored several Freecycling events for the past few years, with the most recent event on October 26 in the parking lot of Crystal Springs Family Aquatic Center in East Brunswick, NJ.
An essential element to a successful Freecycling event is having a number of volunteers on hand to keep the flow of traffic and contributed items organized, from drop off to take away. At each Friends EBEC event, a group of volunteers, often well represented by East Brunswick High School students, has effectively maintained the distribution of goods from removing from car trunks to dispersal in the display/pick up area. Rutgers students have joined the ranks of volunteers that enable this flow so that local residents can easily partake in the event.
Craig Phelps, instructor in the Department of Environmental Sciences, teaches “Introduction to Environmental Science,” which is a large lecture class for non-majors. Along with the other professors for the class, Peter Strom and Beth Ravit, for several years Phelps has been offering extra credit to the students for doing “hands-on” volunteer work related to environmental causes. Phelps said, “We want to reward students for taking an active role in their local communities as well as to encourage them to get the kinds of experiences that we cannot give them in class. Over the years our students have contributed over a thousand hours of work at events like street cleanups, beach sweeps, tree planting, trail building and of course the Freecycle events.”
One of Phelps’ students, Rutgers sophomore Aaron Lynch (Information Technology & Informatics/Political Science double major) enthusiastically embraced his role of volunteer. Lynch recognized the value of the freecycling exchange. “Freecycling is a very unique event that creates a positive environment within a community. It is basically a massive free garage sale. I really think that freecycling is an amazing idea, I had no clue that it could be as beneficial as it actually is. Someone could literally attend a freecycling event and furnish their entire house.” While many area residents may have left the event with useful household items, Lynch left with pleasant sentiments. Lynch reflected, “Partaking in such an event that is rewarding both to the environment and the community is a great feeling. As a student volunteer helping out with freecycling I can honestly say that I am very happy to have volunteered for this event and the positive vibes that came with volunteering surely made the experience worthwhile.”
In part due to its proximity to the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus, the East Brunswick residents and founding members who coordinate the Friends EBEC all have ties to Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. Liti Haramaty is a marine sciences researcher at the Rutgers Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, David Moskowitz is completing a Ph.D. in Entomology, and Fred Stratton is an alumnus (CC ’83), with several of his five sons attending or graduating from Rutgers. Many of the volunteers who help out at the Friends’ events are also affiliated with Rutgers.
Not surprisingly, the Friends EBEC group is responsible from turning local Moth Night events into the international phenomena of National Moth Week, also organizes the “Cadillac” of Freecycle events. Haramaty explains, “What makes our Freecycling event different than others is that items are dropped off and are sorted by category. Unlike other Freecyling events people don’t have to stay with their stuff and take back what was not taken. Placing items by categories also helps people find specific items they are looking for. We can do that because most of the items left at the end of the day are being taken for recycling or disposable by Raviv Mor of R. Mor Enterprises, Inc. who volunteers to help us. Clothes, shoes and toys are picked up by Fashion Republic, a vendor that processes used clothing and ships to people in need.”
East Brunswick Freecycling Days are sponsored by The Friends of East Brunswick Environmental Commission along with R. Mor Enterprises Inc., the East Brunswick Division of Recreation, Parks and Community Services; and the East Brunswick Recycling Center.
The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission is a nonprofit citizens group dedicated to local environmental education and conservation. In addition to Freecycling Days, the Friends sponsor National Moth Week, Amphibian Protection, Community Garden, Butterfly Park, Moth Nights and other public events that help to educate the public about the environment and sustainable practices.
For more information about The Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission, visit www.friendsebec.com.