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Here in San Francisco, there is a thriving culture of curbside freecycling. If you have something you don't want and don't have the time to put it on Craigslist or Freecycle, you can be sure that the corner is the next best place to put it and it'll find a happy home in, usually, a matter of hours. Urban areas often have this kind of unspoken trading system that keeps consumer goods in the loop. But there are a few ground rules for etiquette that help to ensure curbside trading is on the eco up-and-up.

Tips For Leaving Stuff at Curbside

1. Know Your Garbage Pick-Up Days

When you leave items curbside, you want to coordinate with what day your city collects trash so that you can be sure you aren't unknowingly putting something right into the landfill. It's best to leave something out a few days before garbage collection so that you give people a chance to see it and pick it up before it gets grabbed by the garbage crew.

2. Leave A Note

Let people know that something is available for them to grab. Leave a note saying "Free" and in the case of appliances or gadgets, whether or not the item works. You'll also help increase the odds that someone will claim the item quickly.

3. If It's Still There, It's Still Yours

Just because you've decided you don't want something and have set it out for someone else to take home, doesn't mean you've relinquished responsibility for it. If you're setting out electronics, do the green thing and make sure that if no one claims it, you bring it back in and take it to a responsible recycler, rather than letting it get picked up for landfill.

4. Junk is Junk. Don't Pass It On

Be sure that if you're leaving stuff curbside, act as if you're donating it to charity, which means make sure it isn't junk. If something is beyond salvaging, dispose of it properly, or put it on craigslist letting people know it's scrap material for other projects, or an item that needs TLC. If it's simply junk, it'll most likely stay on your curb until trash day where it'll get a one-way trip to the landfill. Tips For Picking Up Curbside Finds 1. Inspect It First Know what you're taking and if it's safe to take it. For example, if you're grabbing furniture, consider the possibility the possibility of pests that have taken up house in the stuffing. Just because it's free doesn't mean you have to take it without spending some time examining it first. 2. Take the Whole Thing If there's an item set out curbside and there's just part of it that you want, don't gut it. Either leave it alone and head to a thrift shop, or take the whole item home, then take the pieces you need and dispose of the rest properly. It's not cool to take just the cushions of a couch, or just the motor of a kitchen gadget. It ruins the fun for everyone else and is a sure fire way to send a portion of the item straight to landfill. 3. If You Don't Want It After All, Don't Return It You might get something home to find that it isn't going to work for you after all. Even if that's the case, don't return it to where you found it. It's just bad form. Instead, take responsibility for it and leave it at your own curbside, following the tips above, or put it up on Craigslist or Freecycle. 4. Return the Favor If you've experienced the thrill of finding something really cool at curbside, then next time you have the chance, pay it forward. When you need to get rid of something that you know someone else will appreciate, follow the tips above and leave it curbside. You just might make someone's day! Got a tip or a post idea for us to write about on Planet Green? Email pgtips (at) treehugger (dot) com.