The Silicon Valley Voice

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Buy Nothing Neighbors Experience the Joy of Giving—and Receiving

Through Buy Nothing Neighbors, people in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and hundreds of other neighborhoods get great hand-me-downs for free.

When Anita Wong moved to Santa Clara three months ago, one of the first things she did was change her Facebook affiliation from Buy Nothing Berkeley to Buy Nothing Santa Clara.

“I’ve been addicted ever since I joined Buy Nothing San Francisco more than five years ago,” said Wong.

A friend told her about the Buy Nothing Project, an online platform that enables people to post photos of items they no longer want and give them to neighbors willing to pick them up. Each local Buy Nothing group has volunteer administrators who moderate the site, making sure guidelines are followed and keeping it secure.


Wong, whose first child, a girl, is due in March, posted items the baby needed on Buy Nothing. In no time, she was gifted with a crib, a diaper changing station and pads, diapers, a floor seat, a bookshelf, enough clothes to fill a closet, a wall book rack, and even three breast pumps.

“You’d be surprised what people give away. You’d think they’d be sold,” said Wong, who was also gifted a cat tree for her adopted cat and two bicycles. “But People just want to see their items loved again.”

Buy Nothing neighbors also ask for free services. A neighbor hemmed two pairs of pants for Wong. Another watched her cat for a week.  A mom busy with newborn twins found a volunteer to drop off four bags of maternity clothes at a women’s shelter in San Jose.

Neighbors borrow and loan items.

Debbie Stoddard joined Buy Nothing Sunnyvale in 2022, also hearing about it from a friend. She borrowed a double stroller for two visiting grandkids, picking it up from a neighbor’s front porch and returning it two weeks later.

“Don’t throw that away,” Stoddard tells friends. “I’ll give it to Buy Nothing. It cuts down on environmental waste.”

She points out that many people acquire necessities through Buy Nothing. “That’s part of the beauty of it,” she said.

“It’s about being good stewards of what we have,” said Wong’s husband, William Liu. “There’s value to other families in things we no longer have use of.”

The giver decides which person gets an item. If a lot of people want an item, Stoddard does a lottery.

“I haven’t had to throw away a single thing I’ve put on Buy Nothing,” she said, although it did take a while to rehome tire snow chains. She is cleaning out her house and only gives items away.

Nothing is too big or too small or too odd to ask for. Wong responded to an ask for old, bent nails for someone’s art project.

A retired second-grade teacher, Stoddard said, “I feel like I’m practicing what I preached to my students. The idea that we don’t need to have all this stuff and somebody else might want it. You don’t have to buy everything brand new.”

Buy Nothing is also about connecting with neighbors. Stoddard connected with a woman who helps refugees. Her husband now volunteers with the woman.

The Buy Nothing Project began over a decade ago—in 2013—as a network on Bainbridge Island, Washington. It was founded by friends Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller to cut down on plastic waste.

Now, it’s a worldwide opportunity to “buy less, give more, and live generously.” More than 7.5 million community members in 128 thousand communities have joined this gift economy network.

On Black Friday in 2021, the Buy Nothing Project—volunteer run—launched a free app that enables people to join through the project’s website, rather than using Facebook. More than 850 thousand free apps have been downloaded from the website.

“Don’t underestimate the power of community giving,” said Wong. “When I cast good things out, I receive good things.”

Other stories you might like:
Savers: Use Your Common Cents To Go Thrifting
SCFD Hosts Holiday “Toy Store” For Local Families In Need


1 Comment
  1. Keiko Kato 3 months ago

    Diane’s articles always teach me something interesting about everyday life.
    ‘Buy Nothing Neighbors Experience The Joy Of Giving—And Receiving’ made me feel comfortable about the act of giving and receiving. I took an interest in the Facebook organization and decided to search one for my local area, Tokyo, Japan. And there was! I just signed up. I am looking forward to connecting with neighbors and engaging in the enriching practice. Thank you for continuously inspiring me!

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