Business Brains

I gave at the office: Encourage your employees to swap unwanted stuff

Posting in Sustainability

Web platform offers companies way to automate and organize reuse or donation activities

First there was Craig's List, then there was Freecycle, which I've written about in the context of my green technology beat.

Not to oversimplify things, but The Freecycle Network is a social network of roughly 7 million people (across 5,000 communities) who believe seriously in the concept of hand-me-downs. People use the Web-based platform to let others in their local community know about stuff they are trying to get rid of -- whether it is a crib, a bicycle, whatever. The idea is to keep these items from ending up in landfills; Freecycle figures it diverts roughly 750 tons of stuff from landfills every day.

Now, the organization is aiming to encourage more businesses do the same thing through a relationship with Intuit. Under the pact, Freecycle has created a software application based on its Freecycle@Work program, one that ties into the Intuit QuickBase online database and collaboration platform. You don't have to use QuickBase to be a user, though.

The idea is simple: Help businesses encourage regifting and reuse among their employees by creating their own Freecycle account. It also helps businesses find new homes for the stuff THEY are trying to get rid of themselves, anything from unwanted office furniture to certain technologies.

Intuit actually has been working with Freecycle in this context since 2008. Here's some insight from the company's director of sustainability, Rupesh Shah:

"Freecycle@Work uniquely combines technology and community to create an ideal way for companies to empower and encourage their employees to act socially responsible and participate in their corporate green efforts."

Given Intuit's position as a key financial and operational tool for many businesses, this relationship should get businesses thinking differently about what they're throwing out and give their employees another reason to interact in a non-work context. Why chuck something when it can find a second life elsewhere?

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure