Kali Williams: administrator of a local, online free marketplace

Sharing is caring—and it reduces waste

Kali Williams is the founder and administrator of the Facebook group Buy Nothing Midtown Sacramento & Beyond.

Kali Williams is the founder and administrator of the Facebook group Buy Nothing Midtown Sacramento & Beyond.

PHOTO COURTESY OF michelle cyrus

Sign up for the group at: facebook.com/groups/buynothingmidtownsac.

As a single working mother, Kali Williams was looking for a way to ease her own child-raising costs. The Winters-born, Sacramento resident also wanted to reduce consumer waste, pool communal resources and stop unnecessary support of huge corporations such as Amazon and Walmart. Not finding anything that filled that niche, Williams founded a new space in 2016: the Facebook group Buy Nothing Midtown Sacramento & Beyond. It’s an online marketplace for people across Sacramento to give away unwanted clothing, furniture, food and more. There, the nearly 1,700 members post photos of things they no longer need and give them to folks that need them more, all without the exchange of a nickel.

SN&R chatted with Williams about the group’s origin and mission.

Why did you start the group?

I mostly was inspired by having an infant at home, and I’m a single mom. The cost of having a child is ridiculous, and the amount of stuff that you have to acquire for a child is just off the wall. I had no idea until I was in it, and what was happening was, I would get from other parents like, huge garbage bags full of clothes and toys that their children had outgrown. And I just thought to myself, “You know, this is a really amazing boon for me.” This is stuff I would not be able to acquire on my own, and I want a system for then passing that stuff on to other people who need it.

The whole Buy Nothing Project is larger than Sacramento, right?

Yes, and I had heard of it—I wasn’t aware it was as big of an organization as it is. I’m not actually connected to them. I looked into it recently, and there’s a whole application process and stuff to start a “Buy Nothing” group. I thought about changing the name; I wondered if eventually I’d get a cease-and-desist [order] because I’m using that name, but I could not think of a better name to communicate what we’re doing.

Had you had similar experiences with free, sharing economy groups?

No, I hadn’t, but I’ve always been passionate about minimizing waste and reuse. In my teens and early 20s, I would hunt the Midtown alleys for old furniture and things, kind of dress them up and either give them away or sell them, because it was such a bummer. I grew up in a really small town, and so to come to a city and see so much waste—when you have a higher population, there’s going to be more waste, and I had never really seen it on that scale … So on a very small scale I was going, “Well, how can I reduce the amount of things that are sitting around being unused, and turn them into something that’s usable for people and enjoyable?”

Any memorable experiences with the page?

… Gosh. I find it really amazing, we’ve had some really specific gives. I have these ink cartridges that only work for a very specific printer, and then to have someone else go, “I have that printer, I’ll make use of that.”

I’ve had people exchanging everything from breast milk to expensive electronics.

Are there interesting things that get given away?

No, I think it’s actually mostly really mundane things—household items and dog food. I bought this 40-pound bag of food that my dog rejected, and somebody else goes, “Oh my gosh, that’s exactly what I need.” That’s just really thrilling, because without a way to facilitate giving like that, that’s something that would just end up in the garbage.