When you join a Buy Nothing Group, you find stuff you need, give stuff you're done with, and build community. Read on for the how and why of these local movements.
I needed to get rid of my porch furniture a few weeks ago. Because it was super inexpensive when I bought it, I didn't want to take the time to sell it.
I considered the standard GoodWill drop-off and then remembered hearing about local groups committed to neighbors sharing and reducing waste.
I joined my local Buy Nothing Facebook Group, posted pictures of my furniture, and met a new neighbor when she picked it up within 36 hours. Success! And the beginning of a new pathway to help me declutter, swap, and create zero-waste.
Buy Nothing Groups are hyper-local groups committed to sharing, reusing, and creating community. Instead of looking to make money as you would on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace sites, these groups are organized to encourage givers to offer freely what they have to give and receive free goods and services when they have a need.
Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark first began the Buy Nothing social experiment as a garden exchange on Puget Sound Island, near Seattle. The idea then grew into the Bainbridge Barter, a meet-up for gardeners. Eventually, it ended up as The Buy Nothing Project, a new group model for neighborhoods to participate together in what they termed a "gift economy."
Rockefeller and Clark define a "gift economy" as parallel to a cash economy, but no money is exchanged. Instead, gift economies recognize people and their created support networks as wealth. The group is the gain. Thirty countries now host groups dedicated to free exchange, gratitude, and fewer trips to the landfill.
You can find a local Buy Nothing Group through Facebook or by searching the Buy Nothing website. When you reach the page, simply click Join Group, and you will be asked these three questions: What are two cross streets near your home? Are you a member of another Buy Nothing Group? Are you at least 21 years old? Once you answer yes, your request will be submitted and then approved by the group organizer within a day or so.
Buy Nothing lists a set of guiding principles on its site. Here are a few: Everyone can give any legal gift, including skills or services. Everyone can receive any legal assistance as well. You cannot expect any gifts in return - so no bartering or trading. But you can lend or borrow.
The Buy Nothing Project encourages expressing gratitude for items on the site, in addition to your offers and needs. They also emphasize being creative with what you offer and ask. If one of the values is zero-waste, what can you give from your fridge that you're not going to use? Do you need to buy that item that your neighbor may have to give?
Joining a group has revealed my compulsive buying habits. I'm just so used to buying whatever I need or think I need. Half the time, I'm buying something I probably already have because I just can't find the thing. While I learned about Buy Nothing to get rid of something quickly, I'm realizing how these groups produce transformations, not just transactions.
I'm at the beginning. Buying "Nothing" seems a long way off, but I'll start with buying less, giving more, and meeting people with the same idea just down the street.