Most Americans like their new purchases new. Just-out-of-the-wrapper, shiny, squeaky, brand new. The American dream isn't about hand-me-downs, it's about working hard so you can get your own.  

But lately, quite a few Americans seem to have decided that green is better than new. In New York City alone, more than 27, 000 people have joined the non-profit network Freecycle. Those New Yorkers, along with the rest of some three million Freecycle members across the country and around the globe, are now helping to keep unwanted belongings out of landfills by giving them away for free on the web. In about three minutes, you can join your local Freecycle community, and joining, naturally, is free.

Members have posted both "wanted" and "available" ads for pet ferrets, fridges, ceiling fans, file cabinets, Barbie clothes, crutches, DVD cases and everything in between.

What about the fuel used to transport these supposedly green gifts, you ask? Relax. As a rule, items are given and claimed within the same local community. 

Visit the network's website to join your local Freecycle community, and see what windfall comes your way. Maybe it'll even motivate you to finally clean out the garage.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in March 2007. The story was added to in August 2009.

In the eye of the beholder
Freecycle allows you to give, receive and keep stuff out of landfills -- free!