Help yourself stand

Action: Set up a ‘help yourself’ table

De-clutter your life and save natural resources

This action is an easy way to give things away that you don’t need, but that others might want.

Simply set up a ‘help yourself’ table outside your house or garage.

The eco-objectives are (1) avoids putting things into the waste system where they might end up in landfill, and (2) someone else, in using your things, doesn’t need to buy something new, thus saving natural resources and carbon emissions.

Other benefits from this action are:

  • you can help someone in need
  • you can use this method to avoid food waste too
  • you may interact with your neighbours and meet new people
  • it can be a fun family thing to do – kids love to see old toys reused for example!
  • you convey a message to your neighbours that is really important
  • if plastic items get re-used, that saves on plastic pollution
  • if you leave a charity tin on the table too (an honesty box) a local charity could benefit
  • your will de-clutter your life and make space, which can be a massive de-stresser

What to do

It’s very simple, on a sunny day (it needs to be dry!) set up a table where passers-by will see. Don’t block the pavement though!

Put up a sign (like in our picture) that says ‘Help yourself’ (click for a larger image).

Help yourself stand

On the table, place items you no longer need. Examples could include …

  • clothing
  • toys
  • books
  • CDs and DVDs
  • gadgets
  • small items of furniture
  • DIY materials
  • tools and clear-out from the shed or garage*
  • dried or sealed foods that you have too much of or is close to use-by date
  • fruit and vegetables you have grown and are surplus
  • … this list could be endless

However, there are a few things to avoid putting on your table …

  • food that is perishable
  • food that is past its date (try not to poison a neighbour!)
  • opened, part used, unsealed food items
  • knives and other sharp tools (unless you are going to supervise the stand)
  • cleaning fluids, corrosives and the like
  • broken irreparable items (i.e. don’t just pass trash on to others)
  • underwear
  • clothing that has not been laundered
  • alcohol
  • loose things that might get blown away (no littering!)

Here are a few tips:

  • wait for a dry, warm, still day so you can leave things unattended
  • you don’t have to be at your stand unless there are sharp tools on it
  • get kids involved in sorting out what can go on the table
  • choose a local charity, ask them for a collecting tin and put it on your stand
  • perhaps co-ordinate with a few neighbours so you all operate a stand on the same day
  • do this every 6 months or so, to keep your life decluttered
  • keep children safe and supervised at all times if they are on your stand
  • don’t stress what happens to your things, even if someone takes lots of things to re-sell and you feel exploited, your action is still saving carbon and landfill, which is the main objective here

You should not need any permissions to do this provided that you are not on someone else’s land or blocking people’s way, and that you are not selling anything.

Why is this a “green” action?

Taking this action helps us to protect our environment because, generally speaking, and in the West especially, we tend to consume far, far more than we need. Items get used once or for a short period and then stashed or thrown away. By passing things on, the resources that were used to make and transport them are effectively being re-used time and time again.

So fewer new things need to be made and bought!

Particularly for plastic items, this is really helpful – it reduces our overall carbon and plastic footprint AND reduces our contribution to the global plastic pollution problem.

Take action

This is a neighbourhood-friendly alternative to taking things to a charity shop or car boot sale, and has the added bonus of being altruistic. De-clutter your life by letting other people have things you no longer need.

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