Posted June 10th 2011 at 10:04 am by
in Cooperatives & New Business Models

Givmo: A new way to be green and give to charity

•  This post is the story of Givmo, an online community where people can give away their unwanted items to other people who want them and can use them for free.

When I decided to create Givmo, it was primarily to solve a problem I had been struggling with. This problem first presented itself several years ago when I graduated from MIT and had to move out of my apartment. As I was packing up my place, I realized that I had accumulated an awful lot of stuff. Some stuff I hadn’t even seen since Freshman year and frankly, didn’t really miss. I noted this, and then proceeded to box up everything and bring it to my next apartment anyway.

Givmo: A new way to be green and give to charityIn the years after college, I had to move around a lot for work. I lived in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and now New York again, moving several times within each of those areas. Actually, I moved 11 times in 11 years. Each time I moved I had to once again pack up my stuff, and each time I marveled, surprised at amount of stuff I had. After like the 4th or 5th move, I didn’t even open certain boxes anymore, I just moved them with me, like furniture, to my new home.

During my last move a few years ago from Vegas to New York, I was forced to open some of those boxes. Expecting to be reacquainted with a bunch of junk I planned to toss, I was surprised to see a lot of good stuff: electronics, computers, kitchen tools, toys, and sporting goods. And I remembered why I kept moving all these things with me. Most everything in there was still in great shape and totally usable — it still had intrinsic value, just not necessarily to me anymore.

Not wanting to throw anything away that still had life left, but also wanting to reclaim some of my space, I tried the eBay, craigslist and garage sale routes — and yes, I was able to get rid of some things that way, but found that the effort involved was not nearly worth the money I earned. With craigslist, I didn’t love dealing with emails and negotiating deals with strangers I then had to schedule times to let into my home. And with garage sales, well, I learned that you can only take so many quarters from old ladies at a garage sale before you realize you’re not doing it for the money.

The more people I spoke to about this, the more I realized it wasn’t just me – everyone had these boxes and closets and garages full of stuff they didn’t really want anymore.

It really got me thinking. Just because I didn’t need my old tent anymore didn’t mean that someone else wouldn’t love to have it, for free. It seemed wrong to throw it out and I wanted an easy no-mess no-fuss way to get my stuff into the hands of someone who’d use it. I quickly called Judy, a former colleague and friend, and asked her to give up her high paying, stable job, come work with me out of my apartment and help me execute this vision. Miraculously, she said yes and with that, we got straight to work.

Givmo: A new way to be green and give to charity

Dustin Byrne, founder of Givmo.

We built Givmo, an online community where people could give away their unwanted items to other people who actually wanted them and could actually use them for free. Givers post photos and a brief description of their item on Givmo, other users get to request the item, and voila – it’s theirs for the taking. The entire process is facilitated by Givmo, but all items are shipped directly via the users, eliminating that pesky craigslist drop off problem. The only cost incurred is for the receiver, who pays the discounted the shipping fee.

We got our family and friends on board and all started Givmo’ing, and it felt beyond amazing to give stuff away for free. I was thrilled to dust off my tent and give it to someone who would actually use it. Shipping it was one small effortless action, but the magnitude of what it represented and what was now possible was so powerful. Not only did I find a good home for the tent, but we reduced the need for additional consumption (eliminating waste), and made a connection with someone I never would have even knew existed before.

We realized that as a benefit of allowing people to share resources, we were actually promoting a green lifestyle at the same time. We were helping the environment by reducing manufacturing waste and excessive consumption, keeping our landfills from overflowing and promoting more conscious living at the same time. By the time Givmo actually launched we were all on board the green train.

Givmo: A new way to be green and give to charity

Givmo’s been up and running for just a few months now and we’ve happily watched the activity on the site steadily increase (meaning people other than my mother-in-law are Givmo’ing stuff). As such, I have found that my conversations with people have become more and more about the benefit of giving and how great it feels to be part of such an eco-conscious community. We decided that just giving some of our stuff away and facilitating the site wasn’t enough — we really wanted Givmo to Give. And then it became really clear. For each item given away on the site, Givmo would donate $1 to a green charity or cause. Givmo will donate money to a different featured charity every few weeks.

Our thought process is this: We all have at least one drawer or closet in our home that we use for storage, probably filled with stuff we never use and don’t need. Well, then we thought about all the drawers, closets, garages, basements, attics, and storage units that belong to our friends and family, and then branched out further and imagined that for people all over the country. That’s a lot of unused stuff that, instead of sitting around, can be used. It can all be donated to Givmo, go to a good home, help save the environment and benefit a charity at the same time. It’s a no-brainer.

Post by Dustin Byrne, President of Givmo.

3 responses to “Givmo: A new way to be green and give to charity”

  1. Lila Berman says:

    I think this is a great idea, not only does an item that is perfectly good go to someone who can use it, but you also didn’t mention the fact that by getting items that you want and need for free, it frees up monies for food and bills, which is extremely important. Get that toy for your kids so they have something to play with. I hope people read this and go right to their spare room, garage, attic, or wherever they keep items they haven’t used in years and give some one else a chance to use it. Good luck Givmo!

  2. Alexa Mills says:

    Great story! I love hearing about people’s personal connections to their businesses.

    Also – I really do think there is a need for new ways to give away and exchange old stuff. Craigslist has become a wasteland. It’s so hard to find anything there. Yard sales are awesome, but not everyone has time (or a yard!). This is something new.

  3. Ramya says:

    I’m glad someone took the time to put something like this together because I too have seen myself struggling to get rid of stuff without going to Goodwill with so many odd items. This actually reminds me of another cool project called neighborgoods where you can check out items that your neighbors have that are available to be borrowed!