Minimalism is the latest buzzword for those seeking to maximize quality of life, and the Freecycle Post-Holiday Swap offers a seasonal opportunity to simplify, recycle and reuse.

“If there are people who may be looking to minimize the amount of stuff in their homes, they can give items to this event and know they are going to find a new life — they may have an item that will be loved and used by a child or provide that extra something that a family needs,” said Holly Schaffer, community relations manager for Pima County Public Library.

A collaboration with the local nonprofit Freecycle, the free event is open to the public from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at Woods Memorial Library, 3455 N. First Ave.

The swap is one of several throughout the year that seeks to provide a place where Tucsonans can give or receive items they have and don’t need or items that they need and don’t have while simultaneously reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills.

Schaffer said attendees can expect to find a wide range of free items including clothing, kitchen and household items, books, holiday decor, toys and games, small electronics and more. Large items such as refrigerators and motorcycles are prohibited.

In addition, the event provides free shredding services — limited to two boxes per person — courtesy of the offices of Tucson Ward 3 Councilman Paul Durham and Pima County Constable Bennett Bernal. Last year about 3,000 pounds of paper were shredded at the event.

The event continues to grow each year, which Schaffer credits to the library’s position in the community and increased awareness about Freecycle’s online recycle and re-use web community. Its website is www.freecycle.org

“Freecycle is gaining in popularity. People are focused on exchanging and reusing goods rather than seeing them go into the landfill. From thrift-store shopping to Freecycle and similar organizations, people really get into that. At the library, we are happy to be an open and free place where the community can come together and support one another,” said Schaffer.

Recycling grease

Another environmentally-friendly recycling event is the 13th annual Grease Collection and Recycling Event, which will be staged from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at five locations citywide.

Sponsored by the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department in partnership with Grecycle, the Pima Association of Governments and the town of Sahuarita, the event seeks to educate the public about the importance of biodiesel and other renewable fuels as well as the hazards of disposing of used fats, cooking oil and grease by pouring it down drains.

“From our perspective as a wastewater utility, cooking grease is very bad for sanitary sewer systems. It collects to the sides and tops of pipes so that anything that goes down catches. This forms giant clogs that can cause dark water and sewage to come up into homes or into the streets, which is a huge health concern for the community,” said Fernanda Quintanilla, a spokesman for the Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department.

Quintanilla said paper products, like wet wipes, and other items put down drains, combine with accumulated grease and harden with calcium to form rock-like obstructions that must be cut from pipes. She said this results in huge expense and inconvenience for homeowners, businesses and communities: In fact, grease-related problems cost Pima County ratepayers more than $600,000 annually in labor and equipment for public sewer lines. Homeowners must foot the bills for blockages that occur on private property.

As an alternative to dumping cooking grease down drains or collecting it in “coffee cans” to be thrown in landfills, the Grease Collection and Recycling campaign encourages the public to “Protect Our Pipes” by bringing saved grease to sites where it can be collected and recycled into biodiesel. Over the past 12 years, the annual event has collected more than 30,000 pounds of grease for recycling; last year 5,363 pounds of grease were collected and turned into biodiesel.

Colleen Crowninshield, clean cities manager at the Pima Association of Governments who co-founded the event, said it has had a great impact on sewer systems, landfills and on the production of biodiesel, which is used by diesel-powered vehicles.

“Biodiesel is a cleaner-burning fuel, so it helps reduce our carbon footprint and the black plumes of smoke that we see from petroleum. It also helps lessen our dependence on foreign oil. The more we look at alternatives, the less we need to import. It helps us put Americans back to work as well,” Crowninshield said.

Crowninshield credits the Pima Association of Governments for its ongoing support of the event and accompanying education, which has served as a model for cities nationwide.

“We have helped cities all over the United States start their own grease recycle events, including San Francisco. ... It has had a trickle-down effect all over. It is one of those events that you can say really made a difference and continues to make a difference every day,” she said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at

ninch2@comcast.net

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