SOCIETY

Don?t throw it out, xariseto(.gr)

Being environmentally friendly doesn?t stop at recycling, and cutting costs in a time of economic uncertainty doesn?t just mean discounts, says the team behind xariseto.gr (?give it away?), a website that puts a Greek spin on Craigslist and the Freecycle Network. ?We believe [its popularity] is due to the economic crisis but also because, gradually, people here are getting into the world of reusing and recycling,? Makis Prodromou, one of the site?s founders, says.

Since its official launch in March 2008, around 14,800 members have signed up to become part of the online venue that allows residents of Greece and Cyprus to post photos or information about items they wish to donate or receive from donators. So far, over 75,000 items have changed hands and 18,500 ads have been posted. Around 2,500 postings are still open — meaning that thousands of objects are currently looking for new homes and just as many people are looking for that special something that might be lying forgotten in someone else?s garage or attic. Xariseto.gr also organizes bazaars around the country.

More than 40 new posts go up every day, while the site?s hotline (0030-2312.203.040) for people without Internet access receives over 50 calls a day. The site?s more than two-year history has translated into a cleaner environment in addition to tidier homes for those who have donated their unwanted clothes, CDs, furniture, collectibles and more: Prodromou says the reuse of items that has come about thanks to xariseto.gr has resulted in 59 fewer tons of garbage going to landfills.

The idea for the site originated in 2006 but it wasn?t until 2008 that xariseto.gr was launched as an online space for Thessaloniki residents. It grew to include Athens and is now active nationwide, with chapters in 52 Greek municipalities along with four cities in Cyprus. And it isn?t just Greeks who use the site: Active members include expats from countries such as Germany, the UK, Sweden and Belgium. Soon, xariseto.gr will launch a new social network that will allow anyone from the European Union or the USA to post on the site, Prodromou says.

As xariseto.gr?s first bazaar was a bigger success than the team expected, the group decided to hold regular events of its kind, not only to raise publicity for the site but also so people without Internet access would have a chance to donate or pick up a variety of items free of charge. The main yearly bazaar is on the second Friday and Saturday of May, with smaller ones taking place throughout the year in various Greek towns and cities.

The online team is also in the process of looking for venues of its own in Thessaloniki and Athens. Other future plans include cooperating with more schools as well as municipalities to hold information sessions on recycling and reuse after some pilot sessions at private schools were a success, in addition to creating open and closed xariseto.gr groups for businesses.

 The results of the site?s success so far? A decrease in the amount of waste that is produced, as an object on xariseto.gr has a longer, fuller life than it would if it had simply been chucked out. There is no size limit when it comes to what can be donated or picked up. Up to now, cars, furniture and brand-new electronic items have been posted for donation. Meanwhile, there?s no denying that at a time when many Greeks are cinching their belts tighter by the day, picking up something that has been donated rather than buying it new is a definite way to better weather the crisis. Says Prodromou: ?There?s just one basic idea: For items to be reused before they are recycled or, even worse, dumped into a landfill.?

Anyone can take part by registering for free on xariseto.gr with an e-mail address. Registered users are free to post requests for a specific item or announce what items they wish to donate. Users must follow the site?s guidelines, which forbid picking up a donated item in order to sell it as well as publicizing an individual?s personal details.