Harper Woods residents can ‘Buy Nothing’ using old belongings

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published October 15, 2019

 A variety of items are given away through Harper Woods’ Buy Nothing group, such as appliances, old toys and yard equipment including Weedwackers, pictured.

A variety of items are given away through Harper Woods’ Buy Nothing group, such as appliances, old toys and yard equipment including Weedwackers, pictured.

Photo provided by David Calus

 People can offer to give away items, such as waffle makers, or ask if anyone has a particular item to give away.

People can offer to give away items, such as waffle makers, or ask if anyone has a particular item to give away.

Photo provided by David Calus

HARPER WOODS — One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and several Harper Woods residents are taking that old adage to heart thanks to a new group online.

Called “Buy Nothing,” the nonprofit group has set up chapters all over the United States, and now one has been started in Harper Woods. Those belonging to the group can offer up items they want to give away or ask if anyone in the community has a particular item they would be willing to part with.

The Harper Woods chapter was begun by resident David Calus, who heard about it after a similar group was begun in the Grosse Pointes.

“It is the only group for Harper Woods,” Calus explained. “There can’t be a second Harper Woods Buy Nothing group. There are strict rules: You can’t cuss, you can’t exchange money and you can’t belong to two Buy Nothing groups at once. It’s not about making money; it’s all about community members coming together.”

Since beginning it Sept. 18, the Harper Woods chapter has already grown to more than 200 members.

“People would post ‘I need a lawnmower,’ or I have a ‘lawnmower to sell or borrow,’” Calus explained. “People can get creative, like making a post where you say, ‘The first person to post an animal photo gets a Weedwacker I am giving away.’ The idea is transparency. Everyone has to communicate on the site. You can’t use anything that has to do with selling or reselling or renting for money. Everyone communicating in the forum is monitored by (administrators), such as myself, who are trained to do so.”

Calus explained what goes into being an administrator.

“It requires a 15-day course for moderating, which you take online,” he explained. “They trained us how to moderate the page, how to ensure people are following the rules and meet our criteria, and how to make a local page interesting and fresh.”

He said there is no shortage of items that people can give away. He has already seen a variety of items offered and asked for, including a few he’s given away himself.

“Right now a lady is offering a designer waffle maker, and she provided pictures and a description of the item,” said Calus. “One person is asking if anyone has a spare mattress. One lady was giving away a book on origami that her kids had. One woman is putting out a table on Oct. 3, where anybody can walk up and take items she’s giving away all day. I just listed a giveaway for a free mailbox for the first person to post a photo of an outdoor animal.”

Other neighboring communities have Buy Nothing groups. Some Harper Woods residents tried to join them and could not due to not being residents, which inspired Calus to look into starting one in Harper Woods.

“Basically what it is, is someone put a post in our Harper Woods Community group, and I looked it up. I found it was an organization that takes a community where people within that boundary can join,” he said.

The Harper Woods chapter is run off of a Facebook page, and people can join by request.

“You can search for ‘Buy Nothing’ on Facebook or go to www.buynothing.org,” said Calus. “You can join from there if you are a Harper Woods resident. They are asked three questions by admins to prove you are a resident, including what street you live on, but that information is all private and just used by admins to ensure you are who you say you are.”

Harper Woods resident Ernestine Lyons was among the first people to join the group, saying that it is a great resource for residents and a wonderful alternative to just tossing old items in the dumpster.

“I think it’s a good idea because Harper Woods had to end its recycling program, and this allows residents to continue to repurpose things,” she said. “I have checked it out, but haven’t posted anything on it yet. I do think it’s a great idea, as it brings people together and lowers our carbon footprint.”

She added that the program is a good fit for Harper Woods.

“We definitely have been seeing a lot in our town — events like the flea market — and it shows people want to share and foster an environment of togetherness,” said Lyons. “Harper Woods is a close-knit community, and this allows people to branch out more in that regard.”

Calus thinks there is a need for a group like this in many communities and believes many Harper Woods residents could benefit from Buy Nothing.

“The basic thing I get out of it is that you are giving back to the community and you are meeting the community,” said Calus. “It’s a charity organization — a nonprofit — but we don’t call it a charity. It’s a community-united group. If people have a need, someone else in the community might be able to meet that need.”