With breeding season just around the corner, now is an ideal time to put those binoculars you no longer use into some other birders hands. Maybe you made use of the Audubon Binoculars Guide and upgraded your optics over the holidays, or perhaps you simply have a spare pair that have been gathering dust. Whatever your situation, birders looking to offload optics that still have some life in them have multiple options.
Donating your optics to budding birders here or scientists abroad is the most straightforward way to give new life to old bins, but selling or repurposing them are also fairly easy. What you choose to do with your gear will depend on personal preference and the condition of the binoculars themselves. Here are several ways to pass your used glass onto others.
Your castoffs can help support bird conservation and environmental education abroad and in the United States. A couple of organizations collect donated equipment and distribute it to scientists and birders working in the Caribbean and Central and South America, where good optics can be difficult—and pricey—to come by. They require that optics be in good working condition. (Note: If your bins are busted, check to see if they’re still under warranty and, if so, whether the manufacturer can repair them.) The groups also take scopes and some photography equipment.
Birders’ Exchange, a program run by the nonprofit American Birding Association (ABA), sends binoculars to partners in South America and the Caribbean. Because of the weather conditions these birders face, binoculars must be waterproof, in good condition, and preferably without Instafocus. ABA provides a thank-you letter that can be used for tax purposes. More information here.
Optics for the Tropics, a Florida-based nonprofit, runs a similar program. The organization brings donated equipment to Latin American research programs to study migratory and local birds. It also requires binoculars to be in good condition and provides an acknowledgement letter for tax purposes. Find the mailing address for donations and more information here.
Groups that work closer to home can make good use of your castoffs, too. Contact your local Audubon chapter or center to see if it is accepting binocular donations for educational programs. Or consider the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit that accepts equipment donations for use in environmental educational programs it runs across the state. The foundation does not have specific quality and condition requirements like the South American programs do, but it does prefer field-ready gear and notes that better optics will get more use. It, too, provides an acknowledgement letter for tax purposes. More information here.
If you’re looking to make some extra cash from your old gear, there are a few online options. If there are a lot of birders in your area, you might be able to make a local sale on Craigslist. Just be sure to follow standard safety tips such as meeting potential buyers in a public place. Another option is eBay, which has a sizable binoculars selection. (One thing for new sellers to note: The site takes a fee on all sales.). Active members of Bird Forum, an internet birding community that’s largely based in the United Kingdom, can post gear on the group’s classifieds page.
Got a pair of Opticron brand binoculars that you no longer use and are no longer under warranty? You can return them to the U.S. office, which will assess their condition. Those in good enough shape are donated to groups like the U.K.’s The Wildlife Trust, while others are taken apart to supply replacement parts for salvageable binoculars.
Depending on your bins and your own penchant for DIY, you may be able to give your binocular lenses new purpose. Videos on YouTube offer instructions for removing a lens to use as a macro camera attachment or virtual reality viewer similar to Google Cardboard. All you'll need is a little patience, which shoudn't be a problem if you're a birder.
Have more suggestions for what to do with your old bins? Share your thoughts in the comments section.