The Earth Organization

We’ve put a lot of effort into creating www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, so it’s enormously encouraging for us when someone from such an esteemed organization as The Earth Organization offers kind words like this:

“I just checked out http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, it is brilliant. I think that is an incredibly good idea. Well done for a very smart conservation effort.”
Yvette Taylor, Executive Director International, The Earth Organization

A bit more about The Earth Organization…

The stated purpose of The Earth Organization is:

1. To create a fundamental change in mankind’s awareness of, and relationship to, his environment and the plant and animal kingdoms, by example and education, thereby reversing the downward spiral of life on Earth.
2. To bridge the gap between mankind, industry, commerce and the environment through applicable environmentalism, workable tools, accurate data and a business and scientific approach to the field of the environment.
3. To raise ethical standards within the conservation movement.

Find out more about The Earth Organization here on Wikipedia or on their website here

Someone just asked me what’s the difference between Freecycle.org and GoodNewsForPolarBears? On the face of it I understand why the question is asked: they’re both places to give and get stuff for free, and they both therefore help people recycle more and reduce waste & landfill.  Please allow me, then, to elaborate a little on the similarities and differences

First thing to say is that Freecycle.org was one of the very important influences upon the creation of GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, the other was eBay.

Truth is, I found some big limitations and frustrations in using Freecycle.org, for example:

– I got snowed under with loads of emails (sometimes as many as 200 a day) about items being ‘offered’, ‘wanted’, and ‘taken’. At first it was great because I got to see items being offered that I didn’t even think I wanted until, that is, I saw them offered.  That’s great because it allows you to discover things opportunistically which I think is a great benefit (indeed we built a similar OPTIONAL alerts feature in GoodNewsForPolarBears.org)…

– … but, after a few days the volume of email started to bug me.  I’m busy, and I don’t have time to scan through so many emails, so I looked for ways to manage them.  What I found was that I could create a ‘sub-folder’ in my email account, and using a ‘filter’ send all the Freecycle emails into that inbox (it started to sound complicated).  That way I thought I’d be able to manage the problem, so I was happy for a few more days.  Problem now, of course, was I didn’t look at that mail folder enough, so I missed all the best stuff. In the end I simply unsubscribed from the emails, so I effectively became a non-user. (you can read more about this one in a previous post here)

– Searching for stuff on Freecycle is OK, but I felt it wasn’t as natural as searching for stuff on eBay.  I guess the problem is that the search simply finds all those emails that I still had to wade through to find anything I wanted.  Then, half the emails were simply people saying they ‘wanted’ or had ‘taken’ something.  Yeah, i just found it a little frustrating.

– Then there’s the question of photos.  When I was using Freecycle (and maybe they’ve hcanged it now) you couldn’t easily add photos to your posts.  Sure, you could upload your photos to Flickr or Photobucket or some other service, and then create a link in my post, but it just got so complicated.

– I recently moved from one area to another, so I joined a new Freecycle group naturally.  But the problem that created for me was I now had TWICE as many of those damned emails; the problem just got twice as big.  I think its great that Freecycle is area specific, but when some of the items (eg computer memory cards) are mere pennies to post why shouldn’t I have the option of a wider market of ‘wanters’ and ‘offerers’?  No, I like the idea of local communities, but I don’t believe it should be an enforced locality limitation.  Take a look at a non-free market for a moment, eBay for example, does’t work that way does it, I just search for stuff I want to buy (or list stuff I want to sell) then I can refine my search by distance IF I CHOOSE.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that all this got me to a point where I wished I had something that was a CROSS BETWEEN FREECYLE AND EBAY, and that’s what we created with www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

So what are the key points about GoodNewsForPolarBears?

For offerers For wanters
  • It’s like a free version of eBay, where you can list any items you want to give away
  • You list items in categories (up to two) to help people browse and more easily find what you’re giving away and what they want
  • It’s really easy to list items (much easier than eBay); it takes about 60 seconds (there’s no need for complicated guides that explain how you do it)
  • It’s simple to include photos with listings (up to four at present)
  • You get to manage your listed items in your ‘My GNFPB’
  • You can keep your contact deatils private until the point at which you want to do a deal, and people can ask you questions without you having to reveal anything
  • You can allow multiple people to ‘bid’ (ask) for your item, then decide on merit who you’d like to give it to
  • You can easily relist items that don’t go, with two clicks
  • It’s easy to search for items, wherever they may be (then decide for yourself how far you are willing to travel of if the item can be posted)
  • It tells you how far away items are (when you join (free)) it calculates how far away items are AND displays a map so you can see)
  • It lets you search outside of your immediate area (so small items that can be posted are also available to you), or refine search results to your immediate vicinity
  • You can set two types of email alerts: 1) keyword alerts to email you when someone is offering particular things you need, 2) an ‘in my town’ alert to get alerted to EVERY item listed in your town (this gives you the opportunistic view that we thought Freecycle did so well, but its optional)
  • You can ‘watch’ items (just like in Ebay), so you don’t miss a thing
  • Members can leave and get feedback for and from other members so you get to develop and see a sense of ‘reputation’ of others in the community
  • You don’t have to put up with Yahoo! advertising banners all over the site, like you do with Freecycle.org

Find out more about how it works here

Don’t get me wrong, I think Freecycle is brilliant, and it certainly has the advantage of volume of members at this stage, but it suffers from a number of limitations (by virtue of the fact that its based on an email group/list system [Yahoo Groups]) that can’t easily be addressed.  What I and others wanted was a cross between eBay and Freecycle – taking the best of each and leaving the less good stuff – and that’s what we’ve created with www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

We have a big challenge ahead of us, and that is simply attracting members, but we hope that we can grow into a mighty oak with the support of those willing to try something new and wanting to do good.

GoodNewsForPolarBears.org is entirely FREE, voluntary, non-profit, and generates zero-revenue (we don’t even allow paid ads).  We’ll thrive only with membes’ genuine desire to do good and try a new way of working, and we hope there are enough of you to do this, and of course to tell others.

It doesn’t matter of you are in London England, or New York New York, you can use it now and spread the word.

I like freecycle.org, but this illustrates one of the reasons we created www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

Here’s an email I just received from my Freecycle group administrator today (please note, this is totally unedited by me other than to remove the administrator’s name.  The bold text is mine to highlight a few of the things I’ve been saying for a while):

We moderators got together recently to chat about improving the group.

We decided one of the main problems was the amount of emails we all get.  It seems to be the biggest reason for someone leaving the group.  We currently have over 5000 members now and over 1400 messages a month so we came up with these rule changes in an effort to reduce the number of emails.

TAKEN and RECEIVED messages are no longer necessary

Indeed not everyone uses them anyway but last month there were 258 TAKENs and 26 RECEIVEDs. We suggest that where possible you reply to all members that respond to your message instead of a global message to the group. It is an easy way to quickly reduce numbers.

A TAKEN message should only be used when the item on offer is so popular that you already have lots of replies from which to decide on a recipient and you want to stop any more coming in.

The location is required in all WANTED as well as OFFERED messages

WANTED messages are still very welcome but we want people from areas that have groups of their own to try these groups first. If no joy you would still be able to post here.

Details of how to format your messages correctly can be found in the guides I have created which can be found

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freecyclewinchester/files/Guides/

<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/freecyclewinchester/files/Guides/&gt; .

But here is a summary:

OFFER: [Description of item] – [Location]

WANTED: [Description of item] – [Location]

The guides will also show you how to filter your emails in your email application (such as outlook) or change your delivery method to the daily digest.

Merge multiple emails as much as possible

By this I mean if you have a list of Videos or books to give away please advertise them in one email rather than individually. This goes for grouping similar items, like garden tools, toys and so on.

We hope you agree with these changes because we want as many people as possible to take part in the group.

Thanks

Freecycle.org is very popular which I think is a great indication of people’s willingness to recycle things by passing them on to others who need them.  But something is wrong when you need an email like this to explain how to post an item, and somehow I believe that you shouldn’t need a ‘guide’ to explain how to structure a listing.  http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org is FAR behind Freecycle.org in members and listings, but then we’re only a few days old, though it does provide a far simpler, more intuitive and better way to enable people to recycle in this way.

Please help us spread the word and grow the community.  It’s entirely free and it’s a non-profit voluntary project; if you have suggestions of how to help the community flourish please email me at BigBear[at]GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

I grabbed this nifty little gadget to keep a track of the Pagerank of http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org.

Free PageRank Checker

We’re young today, so it’s zero right now, but you can help us increase this by linking to http://www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org from your site, blog, or forum. Here’s teh code you need, just copy and paste it into your page:
>www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org – give and get stuff for free in your community

Letter from Sir David Attenborough

Letter from Sir David Attenborough (click pic to enbiggen)

We recently wrote to Sir David Attenborough -( here’s why) –   to ask is he’d like to support www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, and we were pleasantly surprised to get a very courteous (and prompt) reply.

He says:

“Your new website service sounds a great idea. I wish you luck with it”

Here’s the letter of reply we received (we’ve masked out some details to protect individuals’ privacy).

However, Sir David is unfortunately unable to support our cause further for the reasons he’s stated in the letter, but it does rather replenish one’s faith when someone so famous and clearly busy takes the time to personally reply. We do sincerely thank you, Sir David, for taking the time to reply and for your kind words.

Flyer image preview

Click pic to enbiggen

We’ve ironed out just about all of the bugs in the site now, and we’re starting to talk to a few local newspapers to get some publicity, but maybe you can help us.  If you’re concerned about the environment, and you want to join our volunteer army (GNFPB is totally free, non-profit, and voluntary) you can help us spread the word in your town.

We’ve created a simple flyer you can print, modify yourself if you like, and use.

Maybe you’ll hand them out to friends, maybe you’ll hand them to shoppers, maybe you’ll put them on your own counter, maybe you’ll convince your local Starbucks or Costa to have them on the counter?  Go mad, see what you can do.

You can download the flyer as an image (click on the image above), and if you’d like a version in MS Word you can edit email me BigBear[at]GoodNewsForPolarBears.org
Thanks for spreading the word 🙂

FREE childs' slide

FREE childs' slide

This is exactly the reason we set up www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, stuff like this gets dumped everyday, and you can bet there’s some family somewhere within a mile that would LOVE this for their garden!!!

Use www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, and tell others about it to stop this happening. Please.

Seen something like this? SEND ME YOUR PHOTOS and I will publish them – BigBear[at]GoodNewsForPolarBears.org

netSvalbard 172

Not a good sight

I just spoke to the Veolia Wildlife Photograher of the year, Arne Naevra, about his iconic series of photographs depicting a polar bear clutching to a shrinking chunk of ice.  He’s kindly allowed us permission to publish one of those images here to help convey what GoodNewsForPolarBears.org is all about.  One of the photos from this series took runner up in the 2007 “One Earth” Awards.

I think the image says it all.

Photo courtesy of Arne Naevra, Naturbilder.no

Rack mount cabinet

Rack mount cabinet

Under-desk cabinet

Under-desk cabinet

Photocopier? Laser printer?

Photocopier? Laser printer?

Since I started GNFPB I’ve started to take more notice of skips and dumpsters, noticing some of the stuff that gets dumped when I am sure there are others out there that could make use of it, if only they knew.

Here are some shots I took today… That looks like an small office cabinet, an old photocopier, and a rack mount system with a twin tape deck and four amplifiers or mixers of some sort.

OK, so maybe it’s all broken, but to me it just looks like a clearout.  And even if some of that stuff is broken, I BET there are some keen project/DIYers out there that could have used that stuff, instead it looks like it’s just going to end up in a hole in the ground 😦

Spread the word about www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org, tell 5 people now, and let’s start to make a small difference.

Hooray, we just made www.GoodNewsFor PolarBears.org live after a few months of late nights and weekends.  My huge thanks to our brilliant developers, you know who you are.

The site is in ALPHA, which means we’re still finding one or two bugs and cleaning up a few things, but it’s live now and can be used.  We’re not telling anyone publicly about it yet, so if you stumbled onto this page you’re one of the few that know about it.  Welcome.

In a nutshell, GNFPB is about helping people to give stuff they no longer want or need to others who do want or need it.  No fees, no charges, all for free.  And thereby reducing the amount of stuff we throw away, and the amount of new stuff we consume.  Its a small step, to help combat climate change and landfill, but one that we think is worth taking.  We hope you think so too.

Find out more by taking a look around the main site – www.GoodNewsForPolarBears.org (or just www.gnfpb.org for short), tell a few friends, and give it a go.