Buy Nothing groups give all year long
Communities offer a solution to waste, recycling and isolation
Warren has a lot of giving people. But so does Shelby Township, Washington, Fraser, Clinton Township and Rochester Hills. In fact, a map of the Facebook groups which make up the Buy Nothing Project’s hyperlocal network shows there are people around the world who are giving, all year long.
“I am one of those people. I enjoy giving. It makes me happy,” said Kristie Hale Pylar-murray of Warren and an administrator for the Buy Nothing group in her neighborhood.
It was two years ago when she first heard about the Buy Nothing concept, where people join a Facebook group that gives away everything from plants to pianos. A post by a group member might say their toaster broke. Does anyone have an extra? Another post might offer leftovers from a holiday dinner.
Once she signed up and became an active member she was asked to be an administrator and has been leading the way ever since.
“It’s completely different from a lot of free groups that are on Facebook,” Pylar-murray said. “It’s not first-comefirst-serve or I want, I want, can I have it.”
It’s about giving freely and sharing creatively.
That, according to its founders Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesel Clark of Bainbridge Island, Washington, who launched the Buy Nothing Project in 2013 as an experiment in circular gift economies. Since then the concept has become a worldwide social movement that has grown to include more than 4.3 million giving people in 44 countries.
Pylar-murray joined the group because of her passion to help others, by giving what
Another member might join in order to quickly get rid of things that are cluttering their lives or simply to save money by getting things for free. Others might be activists who want to address the three infamous “Rs,” Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling, which was part of the goal for Rockefeller and Clark.
“Participating in a local Buy Nothing Project community allows individuals and communities to reduce their own dependence on single-use and virgin materials by extending the life of existing items through gifting and sharing between group members,” said a post on the BNP site.
The concept works like this: Anyone who wants to join a group can look for a local group in the area where they reside. If a group does not exist the Buy Nothing Project will provide free training and resources to empower people to set up their own group on social media or offline completely.
On Black Friday the founders launched a free app to provide the world instant access to the Buy Nothing Movement.
The rules of engagement are simple: You have to be 21. Once you’re a member you can post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share among neighbors in your group.
You can also ask for anything that you would like to receive for free or borrow. You must be considerate of others. No hatred or discrimination is allowed. There’s also no buying or selling, no trades or bartering, it’s strictly a gift economy.
The group also asks that you give from your own abundance.
“We don’t expect anyone to go out and buy a toaster to give,” said Pylar-murray.
For her, the biggest reward has been the connections that she’s made within the group.
“I found out there are people right in my neighborhood that I would not know otherwise, who have common interests. I now know of five other people within walking distance of me who crochet.”
“The group is also fun,” Pylar-murray said.
Right now, for example, the group is circulating a mystery tote, which is a 20 gallon tub, filled with items that people donated. Each member gets to pick out something, or not, and then pass it on to the next person, whose turn is determined by a random number drawn.
“I picked out this necklace,” said Pylar-murray, displaying a silver chain and pendant she was wearing.
Buy Nothing’s group members come from all walks of life.
“You can be the richest person in the world and need an egg,” Pylar-murray said, which another member might give. “It reminds me of the old days when people used to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbors.”
Before moving to Washington Township, Melissa Batts was a member of a Buy Nothing group in Sterling Heights.
“The group gave me hope for humanity,” Batts said. “When I moved to Washington there was the Greater Romeo/armada/ Richmond group that I could have joined but it really wasn’t geographically within my reach.”
So, she got the training and started one in her own neighborhood.
“What I love most about the BNP is that is provides an opportunity for communities to build connections, reduce waste and spending, while helping each other out,” she said.
When she was living in Sterling Heights, for example, she became depressed after becoming immobile and homebound due to a serious muscle injury.
“I felt very alone and isolated,” she said.
It was then that she saw a post on her group page from someone giving away a candle holder, which was more a work of art. She was instantly drawn to the sculpted piece.
“I expressed my interest and the giver chose me as the recipient,” she said. “It brought me a lot of joy during that time.”
As with Batts, when Sara Ashton found out that there wasn’t a group in her Shelby Township neighborhood, within a week she had one up and running.
“I love that the group isn’t about free stuff or just another swap site. It’s about community and the members who bring it together,” said Ashton. “The group and its members are a force to reckon with and they have a fierce loyalty to one another. I love that they are quick to jump in and help each other out.”
Pylar-murray concurred. “We recently had one member reach out for a meal,” she said. “It was a mother was having trouble feeding all of her kids.” She got the meals she needed.
Many groups have extended their sharing to community events. One of the joys Pylar-murray experienced this past summer was meeting her new friends in person during a fun outing they called a trunk-and-give event.
“It was an amazing time,” she said. “We all met in a parking lot with our trunks full of stuff to give away. It was nice to finally put a face to the charitable people in the group.”
And it’s not just women she added.
“We actually have a lot of men in the group, older and younger,” she said. “It’s just a wonderful thing to be a part of.”