Why You Should Join a Buy Nothing Group (or How to Start One)!

posted in home, low waste

Last Updated on February 23, 2022

Have you heard of Freecycle/Buy Nothing groups?

They are an amazing way to get things you need (for free!) and easily pass on items you no longer need to people who can use them. It’s incredibly sustainable and budget friendly and I love that they are growing in popularity as they get even better with more people taking part!

So here are some of my tips for finding and participating in these sharing groups as well as how to start one if there isn’t a good one in your area.

What are Freecycle or Buy Nothing Groups?

Buy nothing groups are a way for communities to share and create gift economies. Many of us have stuff sitting around we don’t need or no longer use, while others might be looking for those exact products – these groups facilitate that connection!

Members list items they have or are looking for and connect with others who need or have those items to give. It’s that simple!

How to Use Freecycle Groups

Where to Find Them

I’ve found Facebook to be the best place to find and use these groups. They can go by different names so try searching “freecycle”, “free”, “buy nothing”, “upcycling”, or any other words that makes sense in your language or area, along with your city and/or neighborhood (the groups have different geographical scopes). You can also try looking for barter or swap groups but these will have more requirements for getting and giving stuff.

Additionally there are groups focused on more specific products such as tool sharing, sports equipment, or children’s items, so also try those terms if there are areas you’re more interested in.

Also check out Buy Nothing Project’s group listings and Freecycle.org.

How to Join

Most groups will have rules and requirements, be sure to read these carefully and follow them! Be aware that some groups require posting an item before you are allowed to receive anything and many groups are focused on a specific neighborhood, so make sure you live within the boundaries.

Tips for Posting a Buy Nothing Item or ISO Post

It’s most helpful to be as clear and concise as possible with listing any items or ISO (in search of) posts.

  1. Follow any group posting requirements.
  2. Photos are always helpful.
  3. Mention the condition of the item and if there is anything the person should be aware of.
  4. Most people want to know if there was smoking or pets around the item – I’ve often seen this listed as SF (smoke free) or it will say “from a cat-friendly/dog-friendly home” if there are pets.
  5. Include if the item is pick-up only or possibility of deliver and roughly where you are located.
  6. It’s helpful to include how you will select someone if there is a lot of interest – random, first response, best fit for pickup (have people say when they can come get it) etc. Some groups will also have rules around how to choose people.
  7. If you are listing multiple items include if you would like everything picked up together or will give items separately.

For ISOs you don’t have to just post about a specific product eg. “I need a can opener”, you can also make general inquiries and see what people have eg. “looking to fix up the yard and for gardening supplies”. If you are open and flexible, I’ve actually seen some very creative solutions and exchanges come from ISO posts.

Pick-up or Give Safely

One benefit of freecycle groups vs. buying/selling secondhand items is you can avoid coming in contact with the other person.

The method I prefer is porch or front door pickup – the giver will leave the item in a designated spot, usually on front steps or in the front vestibule of an apartment building, and the receiver can go pick it up at the arranged time.

Like with buying items secondhand, it’s important to exchange in a safe situation – only arrange to meet or pickup in open areas and during the day; if I’m doing a front door pickup, I’ll look up the address on google maps to see what the front of the house/apartment and street looks like and make sure I feel safe picking up there. If you do feel unsure or uncomfortable, bring someone else along or arrange an exchange you are more comfortable with.

How to Start a Freecycle Group

No group in your area? Why not start one!

It only takes a little work to set up and after it’s running you can ask for volunteers to help with admin and moderation.

What to Decide for your Buy Nothing Group:

  • What area do you want to include? Your whole city, a part of the city/few neighborhoods, or just your immediate neighborhood?
  • Is it going to be open or focused on specific things? eg. children’s items
  • What rules do you want to have? Check out other groups for examples of rules, and some good things to include in your rules are:
    • Items must be 100% free, no selling, trading/bartering or “strings attached”
    • Age minimum for members
    • If there are any things people can’t post, for example some groups allow the sharing of free services, some are items only
    • Member must participate as themselves ie. no business accounts
    • Members must be respectful to each other and use appropriate language or can be removed
    • Only PM the person posting when requested by that person
    • Posts must be offers or ISOs, do not use the group for other purposes
  • Decide if you want to require members to list an item before being able to receive anything and how you’d like to track that.

You can also start your own Buy Nothing group though the Buy Nothing Project. The have tools to help you set up the group, rules to use and follow, and will list your group.

After you set up your group it’s time to get members! A good place to start is by asking friends, family, and neighbors to join and help spread the word. You can also reach out to other community organizations or local, community-focused businesses to see if they will help you share the group.

I love being part of these groups. Not only have I been able to pass on some things we no longer use but we’ve also saved a bunch of money and scored some great items, my favorite so far is a small play pool which my toddler has been so thrilled to splash in this summer.

If you have things to get rid of or are in need of certain items then I would highly encourage you to join or start a freecycle/buy nothing group. It’s not only wonderfully sustainable, but also a great way to support and connect with your community, and of course, save money!

Are you a member of freecycle or buy nothing groups? Do you have any more tips to share?

Also check out my post about how we managed to furnish (almost) our entire home with secondhand items!


Images from Unsplash.

  1. […] me that the spark for Disco initially began after having such positive experiences participating in Buy Nothing groups and she wanted to apply her skills to a business in the secondhand space that could help reduce […]

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