Green: Sweet CharityDec 27, 2022 08:15AM ● By Linda Persigehl
The new year is a great time to refresh your home decor with updated artwork, textiles, and furniture for a new look.
It's also an ideal time to declutter, particularly with the influx of toys and household items many amass over the holidays. If you’re wondering what to do with all those used items not yet ready for the trash, consider posting them on a nearby Buy Nothing community page on Facebook.
There are hundreds of such communities globally spawned by the Buy Nothing Project, founded in Washington State in 2013. The project’s mission: to create “hyper-local gift economies” around the world. A curated membership, determined by residency within a group’s boundaries, is encouraged to give freely and share creatively items they no longer need or want with other members within the group—essentially, their neighbors. The net results? Helping those in need, reducing landfill waste, and building community.
There are group guidelines to follow: no buying or trading items is permitted; gifters should post items and wait 24 hours before choosing a recipient (to allow more members a chance to make requests); gifters can choose recipients as they wish (if multiple requests are made, many gifters choose a name at random); no poaching or reselling of gifted items is allowed; and recipients must pick up items in a timely manner (most often from the gifter’s front porch).
Jennifer Miller is a member of the Buy Nothing Bennington community, as well as its Facebook page administrator. The group has 1,800 members and spans a broad geographic area—from I-680 westward to 204th Street, and West Maple Road to just north of Bennington’s city limits—making it one of the largest territories in the metro.
“I love that [the group’s mission] is so eco-friendly,” Miller said. “People are so grateful to receive perfectly useful items…often things they needed or really wanted but couldn’t afford. It’s also fantastic for the community feeling it builds, helping people in the neighborhoods around them.”
Miller has received many gifts, from the practical to the unusual. “I had wanted a snake plant, so someone gifted me a plant cutting so I can grow my own plant. I’ve gotten an office chair, a glass L-shaped desk, a bike for my son…when I receive, I feel inspired to give back even more myself.”
Abby Fitzgerald joined the Buy Nothing Bennington group because, as a conscientious consumer, she’s conservative about what she buys and throws away, she said. She also appreciates how the platform facilitates donating, which she prefers over selling used items online—often a cumbersome task for a small profit.
“I’ve given away [throw] pillows, a futon, lamps, items I bought at IKEA back in 2011…when I was upgrading to nicer furnishings,” Fitzgerald said. “Things that have some more life in them and are good for college students or someone just starting a new home.”
She’s been the recipient of some great gifted items, too. “I received a pizza stone once, brand-new. I’ve also gotten some art pieces for my living room…maybe the owner was just tired of them. If something can be given a second life in my home instead of ending up in the landfill, all the better!”
Fitzgerald is a K-8th grade High Ability Learning (HAL) teacher for Bennington Public Schools, so finding ways to save money is always top of mind for this 30-something who prefers to buy experiences over things.
She and many of her teacher friends have benefited greatly from Buy Nothing sites, she said, receiving donated items they use at school every day. She’s been gifted books, a solar system set, robotics, and play building structures for her students…items for which she has no school budget and would otherwise need to buy out of her own pocket.
“It’s been very beneficial [being a member]. Someone posts something useful, and I comment ‘I’m a teacher, I’d love this for may classroom!' and the poster just stops taking offers, just [messages] me to to say ‘It’s yours.’”
Donating rather than dumping (in the trash) is always a better option, and when it helps build community, it’s an even sweeter gift.