Buy Nothing is a community gift

Online Buy Nothing groups bring neighbors together in real life through social media


Online Buy Nothing groups bring neighbors together in real life through social media

How many of your neighbors do you know on your street? What about two streets over? How well do you know them? Well enough to ask for a cup of sugar? What about and Xbox, Steelers’ tickets or a washer and dryer? Sound a bit absurd? What if I told you this happens everyday in my neighborhood? Well it does in our Buy Nothing Group.

While community sharing and generosity is an ancient concept, the official online Buy Nothing platform came about in 2013. It was founded by Rebecca Rockefeller and Lisel Clark in Washington State. Since then it has become a worldwide phenomenon. The mission statement reads as follows: We offer people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors. That’s a mouthful but basically the idea is people have stuff they don’t need, so why not share with your neighbors and get to know them at the same time.

An out of production toy my Autistic son wants for Christmas. I couldn’t find it anywhere and a neighbor gifted it to us

I tell people all the time about this amazing network I’m in and for the most part I get strange looks. Then people express apprehension about interacting with complete strangers. Which I understand, but I can tell you first hand the good outweighs any concerns you may have.  There are rules and procedures put in place and moderators to help keep things in order. Gifters have the power to choose who they give to and arrange pick ups. My favorite thing is when I end up giving back and forth with someone. A person I probably never would have otherwise met becomes a partner in trade.  

Food and garden items are given away routinely. These peppers were grown and gifted in the group.

Another benefit of this community group is that it keeps you humble. Our particular group has matured to the point that most members have achieved a level of comfort most people would shy away from. Unfortunately its not unusual for someone to ask for food because they ran out before payday or parents asking for items for their children that they can’t provide at that moment. Now as you know in social media these types of requests can be met with shame and bashing. But not here. These posts generate a community rally where sometimes dozens of strangers come together to secure the things one should not be without and even the luxuries that make you smile.

Let’s face it we have too much stuff. It’s true. Closets and garages of stuff we don’t use. Even new stuff we never opened. What are we keeping it for???? The social and environmental impact of giving it away to someone who can use it is reason enough. That warm fuzzy feeling you get from helping your neighbors is just icing on the cake. I asked one of the moderators, Meg St-Esprit McKivigan her take on the group:

As an admin of the Buy Nothing Group, I’ve been moved to see the amazing ways our community comes together. It can be as simple as literally borrowing a stick of butter or a cup of sugar as if it’s still my grandmother’s neighborhood, or as awe-inspiring as truly selfless giving. The last two holiday seasons admins have been given large sums of money (totaling in the thousands at this point) to distribute to families in the group. The givers- and there are several- do not want their name attached whatsoever. They just want to freely give of what they’ve been blessed with and pay it forward. While cash isn’t necessarily “buying nothing”- the spirit of the gifts has arisen out of the strong sense of community our local BNP group has inspired.”

I can attest to this. The giving nature has spilled over from the group into our everyday community life.  Its not uncommon to see people from the group gifting time, services, and items on other platforms.  Generosity has become part of our community culture. While these type of connections take time, the possibilities are very real and we are living proof.

Tickets and experiences are given away a lot. Many kids enjoy their first trips to places like Kennywood because of the group.

Let me wrap this up with a list of items that have been given away.  Some are needs, some are wants, and some are just for fun. But in every post is love. Strangers aren’t afraid to ask and neighbors aren’t afraid to give.

Tickets: Steelers, Pens, Pirates, Symphony, Concerts, Plays, Kennywood, Zoo, Sandcastle, Idlewild, Children’s Museum

Houshold: appliances, couches, air conditioners, stoves, refrigerators, beds, swing sets, linens, cribs

Kids: Stollers, clothes, toys, shoes, video games, prom gowns

Food: meal trains, garden produce, frozen foods, cakes, pies, staples, gift cards

Time: Rides, repairs, hauling, friendships

And the list goes on. There are so many posts and gifts I can’t name them all.

Generous neighbors make game night possible.
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Lanae Lumsden
Lanae is lifelong Pittsburgh resident with a brief stint in Ohio for her high school and middle school years. Most of her life she lived in Wilkinsburg but recently became a resident of the north boroughs. Lanae holds an associates’ degree in fashion merchandising and a bachelor’s degree in business management. After college, Lanae, entered the insurance and financial services industry by becoming a licensed agent and a claims specialist. Lanae also is an advocate for cloth diapering and baby wearing. Through her website she offers information and sources offering cloth diapering to all women and families in need. With two boys and 3 girls ranging in ages from 18- 2 most of her time is spent traveling to ballet lessons, band practice, and cello lessons. Also, two of her children are special needs and require various appointments and therapy. When there is time left, she enjoys writing, sewing and cooking. She is currently finishing up her first novel with more already in the works. With a love for travel, Lanae and her family have been to 5 different Caribbean islands and 2 countries in South America. So, look to hear more about the organized chaos that is traveling with 5 kids.