This Is Us

How a ‘Buy Nothing’ Group Kept Me Human

It’s an alternative to waste—but also proof of life

Meghan Gunn
Human Parts
Published in
3 min readMar 16, 2021


Shelves of books in a quaint New England thrift store.
Photo: Catherine McQueen/Moment/Getty Images

“Need a vibrator?” I received this text from a neighbor after moving into my new apartment in downtown Manhattan last summer. Attached was a screenshot of a Facebook post advertising a free, unopened vibrator for pickup on my block.

“Omg, what FB group is this?!” I texted back.

“Only the most important thing ever,” she said. “Added you.”

The feed was completely baffling to me; people gave away everything from a single roll of toilet paper to flat-screen TVs. “Two of my avocados are ripe early,” someone wrote. “Any takers?” Nothing went unclaimed. This was our neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group, a community project with the mantra “give where you live.” It’s an offshoot of the hyperlocal gifting project founded by two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Now, these groups dot communities across the world, each one with its own personality.

I’d soon realize the group wasn’t just for laughs or unloading junk, though. It was an entire ecosystem sustained by compassion. There were leaders and facilitators and good-natured structures in place. For example, items typically aren’t first-come, first-serve; instead…