Professional photo of Rebecca (Becky) Ceraul

The School of Pharmacy’s assistant dean of communications and marketing embraces the Buy Nothing movement.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) Office of Sustainability would like to recognize Rebecca “Becky” Ceraul as a Sustainability Champion! You may remember her from our first feature of the ECOmmuters Series, where she and School of Pharmacy co-worker Lisa Lebovitz talk about how they carpool as an alternative method of commuting to campus.  

Ceraul has been with UMB since 2004. She is the School of Pharmacy’s assistant dean of communications and marketing, where she leads a four-person team focused on reaching internal and external audiences through web communications, social media, digital advertising, email marketing, media relations, publications, branding, and videography/photography.   

As an avid jigsaw puzzle solver who frequently swaps with friends, Ceraul found out about the Buy Northing movement from a puzzle friend. They mentioned seeing puzzles posted on their local Buy Nothing Facebook group, and that piqued her interest to find out more and join. She’s been involved with her Towson-based group for almost a year. 

For those unfamiliar with Buy Nothing: 

“Buy Nothing offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide gift economy network in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people. We believe that communities are more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and joyful when they have functional gift economies.” — Buy Nothing 101

Ceraul has been an active member in giving and receiving items since joining. It has become the first place she goes when offering an item, and the first place she goes when asking for something. Before searching for items to buy online, she’ll turn to her local Buy Nothing group. One of the perks is that using the platform is easy to manage and navigate compared to other neighborhood-based apps, and it’s focused on one thing: a gift-giving and -receiving community. Items are not the only things up for grabs — gifting and requesting services is also an option. 

Some of the favorite items Ceraul has received include: a wax warmer that sits on her puzzle table, a lightweight REI-brand raincoat, and hostas that she’s planted in her backyard. Ceraul has been able to give back to her Buy Nothing community by gifting golf balls collected from her front yard (she lives by the ninth hole of a golf course), clothing and shoes, an essential oil diffuser, puzzles, luggage tags, a kitchen cart, and more.  

Each local Facebook group is moderated by volunteers and abides by Buy Nothing’s community guidelines, though each group also has its own unique way of doing things. In fact, Ceraul’s local group also has a borrow and loan program, which has allowed her to borrow a bingo set for vacation and Halloween costumes to wear to cheer her daughter on during soccer matches. And she’s loaned a power washer to someone asking to borrow one. 

Local gift-economy communities are not new, and there are different platforms and organizations encouraging a gift-giving economy ranging from Buy Nothing Facebook groups, the Buy Nothing phone app, the Freecycle Network, and more. Membership has increased over the last few years during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CNBC. Buy Nothing co-founder Rachel Rockefeller said during the pandemic, “Communities came to realize that one of the biggest ingredients of resiliency is sharing, is relying on your neighbor.” 

The community aspect of Ceraul’s local Buy Nothing group has made it fun and rewarding. For Ceraul, it’s interesting finding out who is also part of the group and learning which neighbors may have similar interests as her, such as solving puzzles. She’s also paid it forward to friends by letting them know of posted items that they may be interested in or by searching for specific items for her husband or children. 

Joining and being a part of a Buy Nothing group allows Ceraul togive back to her local community and reduce her environmental impact by giving unwanted items a new home. Learn more about the Buy Nothing movement by visiting the Buy Nothing project’s website

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