Recycling is great. Recycling for a cause is a double do-good. It keeps things out of landfills and can help those in need or can transform the old into something others are able to use.
Maybe it's time to purge those overstuffed drawers and closets, to clear the cluttered basement, attic, and garage.
Let it go. It can make a difference.
Why let a bike rust away in your garage when a kid could be riding it? The International Bicycle Fund (ibike.org) offers an extensive directory of youth bicycle recycling programs. Just click on Youth Bike Programs Recycling Bicycles on the home page.
When your bookshelves are bursting, check out AdoptALibrary.org for a list of libraries and organizations that accept donations. Southern California-based BookEnds (bookends.org) accepts children's books for Los Angeles-area schools; Books For Africa (booksforafrica.org) sends books to kids in Africa; and The Global Book Exchange (bookexchange.marin.org ) ships them all over the world.
Help someone get a job by donating business clothing that's just hanging out in your closet. Started in New York, Dress for Success Worldwide (dressforsuccess.org) now has affiliates around the globe that outfit disadvantaged women for job interviews. In Los Angeles, Clothes The Deal (clothesthedeal.net) accepts cleaned and pressed garments for men and women and offers Dress To Impress workshops to boost the self-esteem and professional image of participants.
The New Orleans Kid Camera Project (kidcameraproject.org) collects digital cameras and video equipment to help kids in New Orleans recover from the emotional impact of Hurricane Katrina through photography-oriented art therapy. Global Classroom Connection (classroom-connection.org) accepts working digital cameras, which are then donated to classrooms worldwide to help schoolchildren learn about other cultures. Include your e-mail address, and you'll receive a class photo of the children who've benefited from your gift.
Hundreds of charities accept used (even nonrunning) cars to sell at auction. Donate Car USA's website (donatecarusa.com) lists many of those by state, even city in some cases. Fill out an online donation form and you'll be contacted to work out details for pickup within one business day.
Many of us end up getting a new cell phone every year or so. Give your old phone to CollectiveGood (collectivegood.com), which lets you pick one of 17 charities to benefit from your donation.
San Francisco-based One Warm Coat is working to ensure that everyone who needs a cozy coat or jacket has one, free of charge. Visit onewarmcoat.org to find a coat drive in your area, or for information on how to organize your own drive. If an inherited fur coat is cramping your style, donate it to The Humane Society's (hsus.org) Coats for Cubs program. Your castoff will be redirected to a wildlife sanctuary to help comfort orphaned and injured animals.
With chapters all over the United States, the World Computer Exchange (worldcomputerexchange.org) sends computers to technology-poor countries. Oregon-based NextStep (nextsteprecycling.org) has put thousands of pieces of equipment back into use and recycled more than 6 million pounds of e-waste. If you'd like to choose a recipient yourself, the Nonprofit Recycling Network (recycles.org) can help you find a match for your old equipment.
Send unwanted CDs and DVDs to DiscsForDogs.org, which will resell them and give all the proceeds to the Erie County, N.Y., Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to care for stray cats and dogs.
Why keep an old prom dress around when you can donate it to help make a girl in need feel special? DonateMyDress.org is a comprehensive site that lists dress-donation centers by state.
It's easy to see why donating your old specs makes sense. New Eyes for the Needy (neweyesfortheneedy.com) distributes glasses, sunglasses, hearing aids, watches, and more to people in developing nations. OneSight is a family of charitable vision care organizations with thousands of drop-off locations. Find them at onesight.org/northamerica/na.
Don't throw them away! Many schools have fund-raising programs that collect ink cartridges. Call around to see if any in your neighborhood do. Recycle4water (recycleforwater.com) accepts ink cartridges and electronics and gives the proceeds to clean water programs.
Recycle for Breast Cancer (recycleforbreastcancer.org) will take your MP3 player, as well electronics, appliances, and furniture. Prepaid shipping labels are available for many of the items, and proceeds from the recycling go to fight breast cancer.
No. 5 Plastic
If your city's recycling program won't take your No. 5 plastics, the Gimme 5 program will. Eco-friendly products company Preserve (preserveproducts.com) has teamed up with Whole Foods Market to make it easy. Simply bring any clean No. 5 plastics (including Brita water filters) to participating Whole Foods stores or mail them in. Check the Preserve website for more information.
To keep them from stinking up landfills, the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program will take your old, battered athletic shoes to be recycled into surfaces for playgrounds, running tracks, and basketball and tennis courts, as well as infill for synthetic turf fields. For a list of drop-off locations, visit nikereuseashoe.com.