Fighting for freerecyling

Does more members mean less landfill?

Or to put it another way what is the ideal number of members in a group. Obviously a group starts with just one owner and on your own that is a bit boring, mind you you would only have yourself to blame for any now shows.

From there your group grows, and many, if not most groups are in the hundreds. This is typical of groups out in “the sticks” where population levels are low and distances one must travel to obtain items may far outweigh any landfill saving, in terms of the pollution one might generate by travelling that journey.

Quite a lot of groups are in the thousands. This is often considered a healthy number, and any group operating at that level probably has a lively set of posts offering and taking items running on a daily basis. At this level the group thrives and possibly with a considerable deal of participatory satisfaction by most members.

We then run into the large groups. These frankly run at saturation levels. I am talking here about my own local group OxfordFreecycle (with 16,000+ members) as well both Portland Freecycle and New York City Freecycle, both at 24,000+ members and even the gargantuan London Freecycle. To prove my point let me show you the message history of these groups.



Oxford Freecycle Message HistoryPortland Freecycle Message HistoryNew York City Freecycle

London Freecycle Message History

Now ideally you would think that more members means more posts. But that is patently untrue. Here Oxford, itself very large has consistently more posts than those of the larger groups. Why is this? Could it be that Oxford people are better at this? I doubt it. Could it be that too many members actually hampers satisfactory freecycling. When a group gets too large do most members become lurkers rather than active posters?

To understand this takes more effort than I can do in a blog posting. If you have a view on this or experience of a group as its size has grown then I would like to hear from you.


October 9, 2007 - Posted by | freecycle | , , , ,


  1. This is a subject I have been puzzling about for quite a while now. Seems to me that the key performance indicator for a group is throughput… ie. # of successful transactions.

    Ottawa, Canada is small in comparison to the groups you mention. But, we’ve been going in the same direction. More members; less activity. I don’t know if it’s a function of saturation, or boredom after a period of time. It’s VERY difficult to keep groups motivated.

    I’ve always envied the performance of the Edmonton Canada group. . Edmonton is smaller than Ottawa, but Edmonton is the largest group in Canada. And perhaps the busiest in the world! And, it’s no longer a Freecycle group. Owner, Bax, took the group out of Freecycle during the July/07 exodus.

    I’d like to see this subject discussed at length somewhere… anywhere… perhaps on the new “OutForAFlight” group, Andy??? Maybe we can all learn how to keep these groups going and growing in an easily sustainable way.


    Comment by Eric Snyder | October 9, 2007 | Reply

  2. I speculate that many areas are saturated with freecycling and cheapcycling-type groups as well as Craig’s List. All of the local Minneapolis, Minnesota (US) groups (tfn and non-tfn) had peak postings in 2005 and have dwindled down since then.

    Also, I check the local groups for Wanted posts every day, but my home is pretty lean at the moment, so I don’t have much to Offer. Many members seem to join to give away things in a big bunch, then they go to No Email until they have another big bunch of stuff to give.

    Then, of course, there are the people who figure out that No Shows are a huge pain–I think that is one of the biggest dissatisfiers.

    Additionally, highly active groups like Char and Glen’s (and others) are probably the exception–not everyone puts so much into the job as they do.

    Comment by Heidi | October 9, 2007 | Reply

  3. More members does NOT automatically equate to a better/more successful group, unless the only thing you look at is the “poundage” kept out of the landfill by the group. Which I don’t. I gauge a group’s successfulness by the participation level of it’s members. Give me a Freecycle group of around 500 members in a smaller sized community (like the one I live in) where 1/2 to 3/4 of its members participate on a regular basis (which my local group does, at least most months) over a group of 10,000 in a bigger city where maybe 5% of the members are participating regularly, any day!

    Comment by Kandy L. | January 8, 2008 | Reply

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