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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 16, 2018

‘Buy Nothing’ groups take off in Cedar Rapids Corridor

By By Katie Mills Giorgio, The Gazette | Oct 24, 2017

CEDAR RAPIDS — Emily Stochl and Jessie Lowe are good at sharing.

It makes sense then that the two created and now administer the Cedar Rapids (Central) Buy Nothing group on Facebook.

The group’s mission is simple: Exchange items with your neighbors. Give things away without asking for anything in return.

Individuals make a request to join the Facebook group. Then Stochl and Lowe confirm they are within the geographic boundaries of their Cedar Rapids Central group before admitting them.

“Everything is run through Facebook, which the Buy Nothing organization sets up for us,” Stochl said, adding that Buy Nothing groups are forming across the country.

“It’s neat to see a lot of people who aren’t associated with either of us ask to join,” Lowe said. “It webs out within the neighborhood. Once someone joins, then they share it with their neighborhood network.”

The Cedar Rapids group started in August and has about 50 members.

Both Stochl and Lowe hope the group’s connections will grow, with Stochl suggesting she might set up a potluck so Buy Nothing group members can meet each other.

That points to another benefit of the group — neighborhood connections.

“It’s the best recycling program,” added Stochl, noting group members might exchange or give away plant cuttings, vegetables, furniture or household items. They might ask for help with a project or for walking a dog.

“If you are making dinner and want to share, or you need an ingredient, or if you buy something and you know you aren’t going to use it all, you can post to the group,” Stochl said.

It’s also a great place to find tools to borrow, she said.

“These things are probably within our neighborhoods, and we have what others need,” she said. “Now people can be connected and know how to share.”

Both are excited about the community-building aspect of the group.

“You’ll run into people you see, but you didn’t ever have a reason to talk with them before,” Lowe said. “This is very neighborhoody.”

Buy Nothing groups are also operating in other local communities, including north Cedar Rapids and in Iowa City, with another group covering Coralville, North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford and Solon. People are allowed to join only one group.

In setting up their Buy Nothing group, Stochl and Lowe had to set physical boundaries about who could join.

To join their group, people need to live in Cedar Rapids and be south of Bever Avenue SE, east of Interstate 380 and north of Highway 30, an area that includes NewBo, Czech Village and southeast and southwest Cedar Rapids.

Stochl said they’ve been told Cedar Rapids could sustain four Buy Nothing groups, and she and Lowe hope that can happen.

“We do get a lot of requests (to join) from the west side of Cedar Rapids, so I hope that someone can start one over there,” she said.

Lowe agreed.

“I like the idea of growing this and introducing more people to the idea of giving without receiving,” Lowe said. “I love seeing that there are other people who feel the same way I do.”

Stochl first heard about Buy Nothing groups online but did not live within the boundaries of established local groups. So she reached out to like-minded friends to see if there was interest. That’s when Lowe jumped on board.

Stochl said it wasn’t difficult starting the group. She contacted the national organization for assistance and identified two people to serve as administrators of the group’s Facebook page. It took about a week to get the group started. But, she said, it has taken time to introduce others to the concept.

The groups, Stochl said, aim to be of manageable size and include people close enough they can walk or bike to exchange items.

“The idea is to be as inclusive as possible,” she said. “I personally believe in neighborhood building.”

Along the way, Lowe said, she’s discovered she also loves “receiving without giving anything. It’s harder to receive than to give, but once you get used to it, it’s just so cool.”

“It is something you have to get used to,” Stochl agreed. “People in our economy feel like they don’t have anything to offer. Even if it’s just gardening advice, what you give can be simple. Plus, it’s hard for people to ask for things they need. We have given a lot of examples to get people started and get them used to it.”

Both women said trying to sell the items they are now trading or giving away was more work than the items were worth.

“I do this normally,” Lowe of her interest in getting involved. “I am always looking for people to give things to. So much has been given to me in my life, and I just feel like giving back. This group is an easy way to facilitate something we were already doing.

“And the positivity really comes back to you.”

Here are the steps for getting involved in a Buy Nothing group and how it works once you join:

Step 1: Request permission to join a Buy Nothing Facebook group. If you are within the geographic boundaries set by the group, you’ll be admitted.

Step 2: Watch the group’s Facebook page for postings of items being offered by other members. If you are interested in receiving those items for free, reply to the post. It’s up to the person offering the items to decide who gets them so it’s sometimes a good idea to note why you want the items and how you’d use them.

Step 3: If you’re chosen, the giver and receiver agree when to meet and exchange the items. The idea is to give without asking for anything in return and to build neighborhood connections.

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