Buy Nothing is an international organization operating through Facebook, where members exchange, give and receive items freely. Soon after it was created in 2013, the local Key Peninsula chapter of Buy Nothing had a membership of about 200. Five years later that number has swelled to 1,500.
This fall, with more folks signing up every day, the group administrators made the decision to “sprout” or split the original group into three new groups. Key Peninsula residents hoping to give away or receive free items through the popular Facebook group are now directed to the southern, central, or northern Key Peninsula Buy Nothing group, depending on where they live.
The first Buy Nothing formed in Bainbridge Island after a resident was inspired by the gift economy she witnessed during a visit to a remote Himalayan village.
The organization prioritizes building neighborly relationships through giving and thus encourages local administrators to sprout into multiple groups once membership numbers reach four digits. “It’s really about recognizing the abundance in the community and how we can help our neighbors. When a group grows beyond a thousand it gets hard to maintain that community feeling. It becomes just about the stuff,” Hannah Petersen, administrator for the Buy Nothing Key Peninsula South group said.
As part of this community-building effort, common social media acronyms such as ISO (short for “I seek out”) are discouraged as impersonal. Folks posting requests for items are instead asked to be specific about what they need it for, and include “please” and “thank you.” After the giveaway, photos and stories showing the item in use are encouraged.
Nearly anything can be given and received through Buy Nothing. On a recent day, local giveaways included women’s shoes, a toy train set, area rugs, papier-mâché heart decorations, computer speakers, a bag of grass seed and coupons for infant formula.
Erin Taylor, of Foxglove Farm in Longbranch, was new to posting in Buy Nothing, but within a week had given away a leaf blower, a yoga mat, an electric heater, as well as various pieces of farm equipment she had come across while cleaning out her shed.
Food items are also OK to give. Petersen once found herself with extra frosting after finishing a cake. She posted it on a whim, thinking it was unlikely anyone would take it. Someone did.
Lori Aliment found herself with a large unwanted jar of jelly beans three-quarters full. “I took a picture and within 24 hours a community member who was hosting a child’s birthday party arrived to pick them up,” Aliment said.
Local administrator Susan Ricketts has been a longtime presence on local Buy Nothing pages and has given away items both large and small. “I had cleaned out my sock drawer, so I had a grocery bag full of odd socks. I was halfway to the garbage can and suddenly thought ‘I wonder if someone can use these?’ I came back in the house and posted them. I had two responses within a few minutes. One friend who refinishes furniture uses them for staining, another teaches elementary school and uses them for whiteboard erasers,” Ricketts said.
Recent local requested items include a shed, a pellet stove, a kitten, a space heater and someone to help install a fence. Themed days, such as Wishful Wednesday or Fat-Chance Friday encourage folks to ask for things they could use, no matter how unlikely receiving it may be.
“We have so much. If we just stop and take a moment to talk to each other we’ll realize just how much we have as a community,” Petersen said.