Free & For Sale: Sustainability and Community

Students use the GroupMe amherst free & for sale to buy, sell, and give away just about anything. But beyond finding goods, you may even find a friend.

Free & For Sale: Sustainability and Community
Alexa Ekhelar '25 bought her air fryer for around $25 from free & for sale when a senior was selling it at the end of last year. Photo courtesy of Alexa Ekhelar '25.

The first time that my roommate (and co-managing features editor), Sonia Chajet Wides ’25, and I met our Community Advisor (CA), he was retrieving a rug from our room. She was giving the rug away in amherst free & for sale, a campus GroupMe that students use to buy, sell, and give away just about anything. Right away, people started messaging her (after all, a free rug is a pretty good deal).

Obed Labra Pelaez ’23 was the first to respond, and he asked Sonia where she was living so he could come pick it up. Upon hearing her room number, he informed her that he was our CA, and lived just down the hall. He walked the 50 feet to come pick up the rug, introduced himself, and told us that if we needed anything we could knock on his door.

Labra Pelaez said that the exchange “made for a funny interaction and introduction. In a way, the chat allowed me to have an introduction and good relationship with my residents before I normally would have. I’m a big fan of the free and for sale chat. It’s useful and at times very entertaining too.”

It is coincidental that the first person to message my roommate happened to be our CA, but not atypical of amherst free & for sale. The almost 900 current members of the GroupMe make up nearly half of the college’s student body. It figures that you’ll end up buying a dress from your lab partner, or a full-length mirror from someone you keep seeing in Val.

You might even gain a new face to say “hi” to on campus. “Something I like about free & for sale is that I get to meet new people — I’ve gotten to meet some really cool people (albeit sometimes there were awkward interactions) and sometimes the things people sell or request in the GroupMe tend to tell me a bit about their personality and interests,” said Hannah Kim ’25.

Abbey Skinner '24 is pictured here with her mirror from free & for sale, which "fits perfectly above [her] desk." Photo courtesy of Abbey Skinner '24.

Amherst free & for sale was created by Annie Martin ’22E during the “Covid year” of 2020-2021.

Martin initially sent the link to join amherst free & for sale into the on-campus GroupMe, which at the time consisted of around 500 or 600 people.

According to Martin, the chat hit the ground running — something she attributes to GroupMe’s instant joining feature. Martin also commented that Amherst GroupMe culture as we know it (AmherstBussin, etc.) did not exist prior to Covid. Students compensated for a lack of in-person connection with online communities, such as free & for sale.

Martin started amherst free & for sale largely because she wanted to fill the sustainable fashion niche.

“I’ve always been very pro zero waste initiatives and have always been anti fast fashion,” she said. “So I've always looked at thrift stores and garage sales and that sort of thing. It just felt like a niche that needed to be filled at Amherst.”

Martin was also disturbed by the amount of waste Amherst students generated. “Every semester I was at Amherst, you just see how much stuff people throw out," she said. "And it sucks for the custodians who have to clean up after us, but it’s also just really wasteful."

Free & for sale seems to have successfully combatted this problem, at least partially. “I think it’s great to have this network because it promotes sustainable consumer habits,” said Susana Feldman ’23. “Like getting things secondhand or asking around to see if you can borrow something before you buy it.”

Kim agreed: “It’s a great way to repurpose things in our community — a lot of the time things go to waste super easily (for example during dorm clean outs last semester I heard that so many people threw away so many things!!!) and free and for sale is a super easy way to sell things!”

Through the GroupMe, students can give new life to their old items.

Isabelle Anderson ’25 utilized the chat when her body changed during freshman year. “To be clear, this was a good change: I was recovering from an eating disorder and I was proud of myself for making this progress,” said Anderson. “However … I was stuck with half a closet of ill-fitting clothing and didn’t have the time to go all the way to the mall to find new clothes in-person. Then I found the Free and For Sale GroupMe! I was able to get rid of the clothes that didn’t fit me without dwelling on them and bought new pieces after trying them on while on-campus!”

Not only are students able to repurpose their items, but prices tend to be much cheaper than if the item was sold new.

“This chat was a godsend because I was able to get a used iPad in great condition that I use to take notes for nearly all my classes now,” said Jon Feygin ’23.

Jon Feygin '23 takes notes with the used iPad he bought from the GroupMe. Photo courtesy of Jon Feygin '23.

This is especially useful for students who live further from Amherst, and don’t have room to bring everything they need to and from school. Martin, who is originally from Colorado, had to bring everything with her when she moved in and out and found the chat incredibly helpful.

This week alone, items sold in amherst free & for sale include: potting soil, more clothing items than I can count, a (very controversial) bike, a bed frame, and an apple pencil. If you join now, you can buy my climbing shoes, and you may even make a new friend.