The Buy Nothing Academy: Lesson 6
Social Justice & Equity for All
Lesson 6.1 – Social Justice
Social Justice
You probably signed up to participate in a Buy Nothing community to get free stuff, keep stuff out of a landfill, or bring your community together. In bringing your community together, you need to consider historical context for those who live in your community. Each of us is going to have different levels of knowledge about this and different levels of desire to learn more.
You may not have realized it but you’ve also signed up to be a steward for social change in your neighborhood or town! This isn’t the type of social justice that involves politics or other things that might come first to mind. Social justice is the “feedback and corrective” principle for “restoring the harmony” in economic justice. Buy Nothing communities are reshaping what wealth and abundance means on an individual and collective level.
The best way to succeed in helping steward a Buy Nothing mindset and lifestyle in your community is to learn more about the current and past events that have affected all of your neighbors. Are members of your community mostly long term locals? A lot of young people with families? Are there elderly centers nearby? Is there a history of segregation or redlining in your city? Do you have good public transportation systems? These are just a few questions to consider.
The only way to change systemic issues that are affecting your community is through active
ongoing education, awareness, and being open minded to listening to others. Instead of focusing on intentions, consider the impact that your actions could have (intent vs impact). We are in this to make our small part of the world a better place and you, as a community member, are the first step.

Please take active steps to dismantle systemic racism in your community by engaging ALL members of your community to participate in the Buy Nothing Project. Seek out ways to make your community as diverse and inclusive of historically marginalized people as possible. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these Ted Talks and ABCs of Social Justice to help understand social justice or learning about the ever changing language of a socially conscious conversation.

Activity 6.1
Write down what kind of community you’re trying to create for yourself. Do you want to connect with people that are different from you in terms of race, religion, socioeconomic background, etc? Brainstorm some ideas about connecting to people around you and how you could reach out to make those connections.
Lesson 6.2 – Common Practices For A More Equitable & Accessible Sharing Experience
Safety & Physical Accessibility

We want to share with you some important and powerful tips that you can put into practice in your own Buy Nothing giving/asking/gratitude, tips you can share with your neighbors, to bring more racial justice, equity, safety, inclusion, and fuller participation for your entire community. First we want to show an example, by Laurel Lea, of how a member asked her community how they could make their gift economy a safe and more equitable and inclusive place for all. (Our gratitude to the Buy Nothing Brighton/Dunlap, Seattle, WA group and Laurel Lea for writing this list up and allowing us to make it public, to her friend, Mark, who helped educate her, and to everyone who has added their own labor to the comments section of Laurel Lea’s original Facebook post.)

Laurel’s post focuses primarily on issues surrounding making people feel safe during pickups. Other situations that can affect pickups are physical accessibility issues. Is the place that you are giving from physically accessible for someone with a walker, with a cane, or in a wheelchair? Sharing information in your post about the physical accessibility of your home could change whether someone is able to comment requesting your item or not. And if your home is not physically accessible for all perhaps you could offer to drop off if that was a concern. Making sure your home numbers are clearly marked and/or you’ve sent a photo of your home may help those with visual disabilities as well as everyone else who hasn’t been to your place before.

Equitable & Accessible Language

But what about accessibility concerns in your posts? Language can make people feel included or excluded. Using the terms feminine and mascline when describing clothing instead of male/boy and female/girl is more inclusive of our trans and non-binary neighbors. And using color and other details in descriptions of other items can help too. For example writing, “Would anyone like this children’s bike? It’s got a pink seat, pink streamers coming from the handlebars, and there are pictures of My Little Ponies on the body of the bike.” These descriptions can also allow a person with a visual disability to gain information about your picture that they would not be able to get from the picture alone.

Another consideration for some people is allergens and what they might be exposed to when bringing items in from other people’s homes. If someone in your house smokes, if you have pets such as a cat or a dog, or you use products such as air freshener, scented detergents or soaps, that is helpful information for people with sensitivities. For some of us a scented detergent may just be annoying, but for others it may cause an allergic reaction. It’s true that the recipient could ask about any situations that could affect them as well. Doing so might draw out the process for you as the gifter and if you’d like to pick someone quickly, this information will help everyone make an informed decision about whether they would like to ask for your items or not.

Expand Your Awareness

What other accessibility concerns have you considered when gifting in your group? The things that are easy for us each individually to do are often things we don’t think about being hard for others. In looking at our own privileges we can help to make a more accessible and inclusive gifting community. Changing the way that you post in your gifting community may take a bit of time on your end. Doing the work can connect you to your neighbors in a positive way and open up space for conversations.

Here are some accessibility & awareness posts to use in opening up these topics in your Buy Nothing community to support all your neighbors.
(Thanks to Juana Tango, Rebecca St. Martin, and any others who have spoken up to the Buy Nothing Project about accessibility concerns in Buy Nothing communities.)
Activity 6.2
Update your Buy Nothing profile to help build a culture of accessibility and equity. Write up a basic paragraph (#1) that you could include on all of your posts about the allergens that may be present in your home and/or transportation information to get to your home. Or write a basic paragraph (#2) giving people information about what picking up from you looks like. Use it when communicating with people at your next pick up.

#1 – Allergen information – My home is cat friendly and while we don’t have dogs, we love playing with other people’s dogs so there may be some stray dog hair. I use unscented laundry detergent or soap nuts and line dry. We use scented lotion and scented hand & dish soap.
Transportation information – I’m just north of the Target on Main Street and two blocks from the #39 Bus line. My driveway is gravel but not steep and very short. There is no sidewalk on my street or the surrounding streets. I’m happy to drop things off if that’s easier for you and you have some flexibility on time.

#2 – My address is 4400 Buy Nothing Lane. I’m the gray house with the red door and yellow little library out front. I also have a Buy Nothing Practiced Here sign in my front window. There is one stair to my front door and I can put items on that step so they are accessible to everyone. I don’t usually put things in bags so they will be sitting out to see. If you have multiple items I will put items in a plastic bag saved from other pickups and label it with your name. My street is not a thorough street and you’re welcome to turn a car around in my driveway. If you are picking up after dark I will leave the porch light on and there is a streetlight across the street as well.