The Buy Nothing Academy: Lesson 7
Why & How
Lesson 7.1 – Why This Matters

Besides filling our lives with gratitude and meeting our neighbors, why do local gift economies matter?

We all need stuff to survive. That stuff has to come from somewhere. Choosing to “shop” in your Buy Nothing community, and choosing to reuse items, helps build a more sustainable human footprint on the planet. When we find ways to meet our wants and needs without buying brand new items, we reject marketing hype and the idea that everything has to be new or pristine. We also reject the idea that our worth is based on how new and pristine our belongings are. We learn more about making do, mending, borrowing and sharing. If you’re up for diving deeper into these ideas, we invite you to check out the Buy Nothing Home, a room-by-room tour complete with ideas about how to live more sustainably, the Buy Nothing way. We also have a worldwide group called BuyNothing7 Challenge where you can connect with others and take a 7-day and 30-day challenge to stave off your buying habits.

Part of this reuse of items is learning how to make items last as long as possible. As cheap goods became available with the rise of industrialization, many people lost the idea that skills of repair or mending were necessary. Coupled with planned obsolescence, where companies designed items not to last so that consumers would need to buy more items, many of the things we now buy break within a few years, or even months. Fixing them can be tricky if the parts weren’t made to last. If we take on the task of learning how to repair and mend, for many of us this means learning new skills. This passing of knowledge is another gift that you can give or ask for in your Buy Nothing communities.

As we are not spending money on purchasing things or repairing broken items that we have, we get to choose how to invest in ourselves and our communities in other ways. Want to see what participants of Buy Nothing communities did with the money they felt they saved through their gift economy participation? Check out the Buy Nothing Project Research Initiative. Can you see yourself investing in savings, in experiences, in small local companies, or in raising financial and generational wealth for your family?

Of the things that we do purchase, many are bought online from large corporations that take money out of our communities and away from local small businesses. Lower cost is often a factor in buying online, but there is a higher cost to our planet and communities from the production of low cost items that is hidden. The Story of Stuff has a video explaining these hidden costs.

Shipping items from around the world straight to our doors results in pollution from fossil fuels and a high energy cost for each individual item. Walking, biking, or even driving 5-10 minutes to pick up a preloved item from your neighbor does not significantly increase pollution. Using a pre-used item from your local area keeps more items from being made and shipped from the other side of the world, reducing pollution costs there as well. Environmental pollution also disproportionately affects communities of color, so environmental justice is social justice.

Sharing and reusing items helps us cut down on the production of new stuff. One of the most common materials used to produce items of all kinds is plastic. It’s hard to get away from plastic even if you want to, and the negative costs of plastic include: the extraction of fossil fuels to make the plastic pellets that are the feed-stock for all plastic items on the planet, the, pollution caused to produce plastics, the pollution that comes from incinerating it, and the fact that plastics never go away. Plastics slowly photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces until they outnumber the zooplankton in our seas and are consumed by aquatic life. That single-use ketchup packet that was so handy when getting your fast food fries will take hundreds of years to break down into micro plastics and will never actually disappear from our soils, watersheds, and oceans. Check out the Story of Plastic, animated video, for more details.

Try one of these challenge ideas on for a week, two weeks, or a month and see what mindset changes they bring to your life:
  • Buy nothing essentials in the BuyNothing7 Challenge
  • Pick a room in The Buy Nothing Home, and try some of the tips there
  • Wear the Same Clothes for 100 Days Challenge
  • Back to School Supply Challenge
  • Mend Your Clothes Challenge
  • Repair Your Stuff Challenge
  • Wait a Week Before Buying Challenge
  • 10 Day Give Away Challenge
Activity 7.1
Pick one challenge from the ideas listed above and try it on for a week or a month. Try doing the challenge with a friend or your community.
Lesson 7.2 – Let’s Make it Happen

Thank you for taking this online course to learn more about gift economies through the Buy Nothing Project lens. Where you go from here is up to you, but we hope to see you fostering the sharing that is endemic to community-building inside a local gift economy near you, no matter what form or shape it comes in. Here are a few of our favorites:
Offline Giving Opportunities

Giving and sharing has always happened between friends or through existing groups of people naturally. If you’re looking for more ways to expand this idea, check out The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan. Other gift economy ideas include

BuyNothing App

If you want to participate in a personalized gift economy model, we would love to have you join us in the BuyNothing app. Simply download the app and start building your community and sharing now!

DOWNLOAD from: Apple App Store or Google Play

Be Recognized as a Community Builder!
As an added expression of our gratitude for taking this online course, we would love to recognize you for your efforts, as a Community Builder. Simply fill out this form and you'll get street cred in your neighborhood as a Community Builder. And if you'd like to learn more about your role, visit our Community Builder page!

Other Buy Nothing Communities:
You can find a list of Buy Nothing communities around the world, on a variety of platforms, on our website’s Find a Group page. You can also set up your own Buy Nothing community anywhere you’d like, online or offline. Our Buy Nothing on Social Media page is a mini how-to with foundational documents for setting up your group on Facebook or other platforms. We have a number of freely-given resources to help you with this through our Freesources, available on our website. Many of these Freesources are available in multiple languages. Members of the Development and Equity Team have created a resource, Equity Resources for Development, to help if you are building a community with physical boundaries.

For Everyone
As you participate in your local gift economy, we hope you remember the ideas presented here. If you have questions about the Buy Nothing Project mission or things that you are seeing in your community that don’t fit with what you think a gift economy should look like, please use the Buy Nothing Project website to find answers.

There are so many ways for creating sharing communities. We are excited to see all the different ideas that come when we work together to give, ask and share our gratitude.
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