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Facebook group builds community

Buy Nothing project bonds neighbors

North Liberty Leader
NORTH LIBERTY– In a season characterized by stores packed with shoppers eager to buy that perfect gift for their loved one, a local Facebook group puts a fresh spin on gift giving.
“It’s a hyper-local gifting economy,” explained Melissa Chagala, a North Liberty resident and administrator for the North Liberty/Solon chapter of the Buy Nothing project.
“There’s a sense of feeling good about giving away things that are still of good use that will go to somebody who will really use and appreciate them,” she added. “It can really be any number of things that works for the gifter and the giftee, and on a bigger level just builds relationships.”
The Buy Nothing project stems from a worldwide social movement started in 2013. With the motto “Buy Nothing, Give Freely, Share Creatively,” it borrows elements from the online classifieds format of Craigslist but incorporates a special community focus. Members post their gift or request, often accompanied with a photo and description.
“The gifter can choose how they select the gitftee any number of ways,” Chagala explained. “It’s not the same as a traditional buy-sell-trade page.”
Gifters post questionnaires or requests for unique feedback from interested members based on the gift at hand, often replacing the traditional first-come, first-serve approach with a more specialized transaction.
“And there’s no exchange of money or bartering or trade. It’s all just gifting,” she said.
Chagala was content in showing off a recent gift she received in time for Christmas, a plush light-up toy.
“It was on my son’s wish list, and it just lights up the room with stars,” she said. “It was posted on our group, and I had commented that I would love to be considered for it, that it was on my son’s Christmas list, and I was chosen.”
The North Liberty/Solon Buy Nothing group sprouted a few months ago from a previous incarnation that encompassed North Liberty, Solon, Coralville, Tiffin and Oxford.
Gifts commonly offered on the local Buy Nothing include toys, clothing, home decor and kitchen items, but the possibilities are endless, said Chagala.
“I seem to be really good at asking for really weird things,” she confessed. “But you know what? It’s great! There, you don’t have to go out and purchase it.”
“We’re giving from our own abundance, from what we have, and then building relationships,” she summarized.
Chagala went on to describe the diversity of Buy Nothing, which goes far beyond physical gifts.
“Gifts of time, gives of self, gives of talent. So you’ll see local crafters love crafting things, and they’ll offer to craft something special and unique for someone,” she said. “We have members who offer to move heavy objects. If they have received a dresser and they really need help moving it, we have members that will offer their time to help them get it where it needs to be.”
One particular member of the North Liberty/Solon group devised a creative method to clean the inside of an electric stove, and she offered to personally demonstrate the approach for interested neighbors.
“For somebody to take the time out of their day to go meet the family, and clean out this oven and teach someone else how to do it, it’s a story that they’ll pass on within their family,” said Chagala.
Chagala also noted the benefit of reducing waste and unnecessary purchases through acts of generosity.
“You can ask for something you’re looking for, and then gift things you have lying around that you haven’t used in a year that someone else could really value or might be searching for,” she said.
“This toy, for example, has tons of life left,” Chagala said of her recent transaction. “It shouldn’t go to a trash can somewhere because it can be re-gifted and reused for a very long time and very much appreciated.”
Chagala also noted that within an exchange often comes a history and emotional involvement in the particular item being gifted. This, she said, often fosters an emotional connection between the parties.
“I’ve seen that a few times, where they used it to rock their daughter to sleep, or they’ve used it to make themselves healthier or it’s significant to them,” she explained. “It means something to them, and they genuinely want to pass it to someone who will appreciate that and who could really use that same thing.”
Interactions between members are generally polite and cheerful. And following a successful gifting, users often express gratitude, said Chagala.
“We have a lot of members, afterwards, who also posts thank-yous and pictures of their kids or themselves using these things that they’ve received,” she said. “That’s really unique and bonding.”
“It really builds a relationship, which I think is the ultimate goal,” she continued. “What’s really cool about our particular group is that we’re building connections within North Liberty and Solon.”
And the North Liberty/Solon chapter is growing rapidly, with over 4,000 new posts in the last 30 days. The group added over 230 members in the last 30 days and has just reached over 1,000 members total. Other neighboring chapters include Iowa City, with over 900 members; and Coralville/Tiffin/Oxford, with over 400 members.
“There are over 50 in Iowa, and Minnesota and it just goes on and on from there,” noted Chagala. “So it’s really encouraging to find your own group where you are and meet people there, and possibly start one if you don’t have a group.”
As the expanding world of social media develops a reputation for distancing people from one another, the Buy Nothing project channels the medium to bring communities together, as well as prevent unnecessary production of goods and waste.
“It just seems to be gaining interest, and we think it’s wonderful to bring attention to the Buy Nothing project because it’s just an amazing concept; it’s an amazing mission, and we’re happy to be a part of it just in our own local area,” said Chagala.
To find the Buy Nothing chapter in your area, search the name of your city with “Buy Nothing” on Facebook. For more information on the worldwide project, visit buynothingproject.org.