The Buy Nothing Academy: Lesson 4
Buy Nothing Culture: People over Stuff
Lesson 4.1 – Ways We Communicate

To get you even more pumped up about how awesome your Buy Nothing experience can be, here’s a video of some real people living the Buy Nothing life. Buy Nothing, Give Freely video.

Ways We Communicate
Gift economies have been building relationships between people for generations. We can improve the depth and power of these relationships when we communicate with each other while we’re sharing. A Buy Nothing gift economy is meant to be a place of stories, jokes, heartfelt comments, and discussions sparked by the gifts being offered and received. These stories and discussions build a Buy Nothing community identity and are a gift to each person.

We encourage people to communicate in ways that are easy for them. Explain what you’re offering or requesting in the words of your choosing. There are no rules about how your communication with your neighbors must be worded or formatted. It’s fine to use a lot of whole words to tell a story about your offer or request, and it’s fine to use abbreviations or acronyms, or to use any combination of words and images that you’d like. You’ll build more connections when you share stories, and connections are one of the best Buy Nothing gifts.

We ask everyone to extend patience and understanding to each other, as each Buy Nothing community includes people with a variety of languages, literacy levels, neuro-differences, and communication styles. Participants are welcome to communicate in whatever language they are most comfortable in. The more your personality comes through in your offers, requests, and comments, the more you’ll build connections with others. We encourage you to ask questions if a post is unclear to you and in doing so model for the rest of your neighbors the way they can communicate with compassion.

The BuyNothing app’s Community Commitment is the foundation for all of our interactions. It is a contract we each hold with every member of the community. The points in the contract are applied to everyone equally and are designed to allow each of us to communicate in the ways that work best for us, while still banning hate speech and discriminatory practices.

Lesson 4.2 – Pick-Ups & Condition of Items
Coordinating Pick-Ups
Prompt pick-ups can help keep a gift economy healthy and vibrant. Encourage people to communicate if something happens to delay pick-up. Life happens to all of us and being understanding about missed pick-ups is helpful, but do reach out to recipients if they’re delayed in picking your gift up.

You’re welcome to voice your concerns about “no shows” in a way that can be helpful for the whole community, by either posting about it to spark the conversation as a whole or you can comment on your original post to ask a recipient if they’re going to pick up. The community can then make their own informed choices on whom to give to. “I haven’t heard back from you about rescheduling the pick up for the shoes so I’m going to give them to someone else now,” is a way to help the community see what is going on. If you have the ability to drop something off when someone’s week/day isn’t going their way, consider that another way to be the change you wish to see.

No Car? No Problem
Some people arrange to meet person-to-person when exchanging gifts. We hear about so many long lasting friendships that have formed between neighbors, both on-line and off-line as a result of this social movement! But we can’t always arrange to meet in person, so most of us do contactless pickups .Encourage people to share only as much personal information as they are comfortable with. We suggest privately messaging about addresses, pick up locations and times.

For many members of Buy Nothing communities, picking up items can be unsafe for them. It can be dangerous to take something off another person’s porch even if that person wants you to have it. There could be neighbors who don’t understand why you are there and they may call the police on you. Things might not be labeled clearly and you might have to dig around in bags to find the item you were supposed to pick up. These optics may not look great to a neighbor.

Communication about Items
Be up front and honest about the condition of items you are giving. If an item isn’t working or if, for example, there is a stain on the pillow you’re offering, please say that. Picking up an item that is not as it was described can be frustrating. We encourage participants to communicate and ask questions about items. It’s also helpful for everyone to know if an item has a fragrance (to inform the many participants who have chemical sensitivities) or if your home is a pet-friendly or smoker’s home. Someone who is allergic to cats can mention it when they ask for an item. It’s perfectly okay if a recipient decides to leave their gift behind when it doesn’t meet their expectations. It’s also okay for the recipient to simply repost the item as a gift, too.

Activity 4.2
As evidenced by this popular post on X/Twitter, you can literally give away 2 simple granola bars. The post has received nearly 21 million views, and put us trending at #2 on Twitter. So, anything goes on Buy Nothing! Experiment with this idea and perhaps post a question to your community asking what kinds of things they’ve rehomed on a whim, thinking no one would like
Lesson 4.3 – No Limits to Abundance

Abundance and Scarcity
Trusting that there is enough for everyone can be hard to embrace when you see people around you struggling. When we talk about the Abundance vs. Scarcity Mindset, we are not denying that there is poverty in the world, or that generational poverty and systemic injustice in many nations constricts people’s lives, accumulation of wealth, or access to a living wage, safe housing, and clean water, etc.

Consumer culture wants us to believe that there isn’t enough, that we must constantly buy new things and keep these things for our exclusive use. We are taught to view ourselves as “wealthy” if we have a home filled with brand new items that we do not share. We're also programmed to not ask our neighbor if we could borrow or have something they might have in excess. All of this is what we call a Scarcity Mindset.

An Abundance Mindset is quite different. It’s a starting point that trusts in human generosity and connection, mutual dependence, a view that assumes we are wired to care for each other. This is possible when we build resilient communities comfortable in the sharing of resources and the collaborative circular economy that results. This blog post, by Ariel Yasmine, titled How to Practice Abundance (even with a scarcity mindset) may be helpful in framing your understanding as well as this helpful video.

The Buy Nothing Project trusts in this abundance. We trust in our innate human desire to care for each other.

Share Without Limit

There is no limit to how many gifts we can ask for in a Buy Nothing gift economy, or how often we can ask. There is no limit to the number of gifts we can offer, or how often we give. A vibrant gift economy needs people to both Ask and Give.

Some people may never ask for items but only give. Other people may always ask and never give. It's all ok! Most people will do some of both and the amount of each will change throughout the months and years. We encourage everyone to try both, because each action has its own lessons on how we become integral to in a gift economy. There is an ebb and flow to many things in life and nature. Giving is no different.

Lesson 4.4 – Events & Empowering Members

Events & Gifts
Hosting an event can be a great way to help community members connect in person. school parking lots, libraries, churches and parks are possible places to connect. Be sure to check out our Buy Nothing Sharing Events resource for some great ideas. Suggestions for events are Junk in the Trunk, Booty in the Boot, Clothing Give, Back to School Supplies Give or a Buy Nothing Boutique/Buy Nothing Bazaar. Making up a name that doesn’t use the words “sale” or “swap” is half the fun.

Make sure to have a plan for what to do with leftover items from your event. Have someone drop the remaining items off at a local charity or school afterwards. It is never a requirement to bring items to a Buy Nothing event. Everything is freely given. Encourage people to come even if they are just picking up items. This makes them feel welcome and it also serves to re-home more items. We operate from a mindset of abundance, and you’ll find that there will be plenty leftover after the event, so having more recipients than givers is always welcome.

Society tends to separate us into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ In Buy Nothing gift economies every participant has something to give. All gifts are of equal value and “priceless” in a gift economy. At first, people may feel strange posting the spaghetti jar they emptied and washed out last night, but we see them used often! Gifts are a means of connecting us with each other.

Because Buy Nothing communities are open to all adult community members, there will be many different types of people and experiences in every community. Someone is going to rub you the wrong way and do things differently than you do. That’s okay, expected, and allowed. Let people be themselves and be messy, within the context of the Community Commitment and Community Agreement. Let go of your expectations that someone will come in and “fix” things to your taste. Our role as participants is not to save the community from people that are different or off-putting, but rather to ensure that all participants following the rules can still use the sharing community as they choose. If participants don’t like a certain post, they can scroll on by. If they don’t like a certain community member, they are welcome to block them.

Empowering Community Members
The more we each help to empower people, the less work anyone will have to do monitoring your community. As you model comments redirecting people back to the mission, others will see that and take notice. At some point they may feel empowered as well to comment and redirect someone back to the mission.

Activity 4.4
Have you been to any sharing events or hosted sharing events or activities of your own? Think of an event you could organize, with help, in your community. If you’re feeling like hosting is too much, just make a post in your community seeing if anyone else might be interested in organizing an event.