All About How Buy Nothing Works

THE BUY NOTHING PROJECT is an international network of local gift economies. Buy Nothing offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

We believe that communities are more resilient, sustainable, equitable, and joyful when they have functional gift economies.

The Community Commitment is our agreement with you and your agreement with us, the rules governing our app, so please be sure to familiarize yourself with it.

These Community Guidelines below add more detail to the Community Commitment. These guidelines make Buy Nothing Buy Nothing, and keep it safe and welcoming for all. We hold everyone equally accountable to the Community Commitment and Community Guidelines guidelines as we participate together in Buy Nothing communities.
Types of Posts
There are 3 types of Buy Nothing posts:
  • GIVE: Offer a freely-given gift that you’d like to share, loan, or give away. See the types of gifts below for some ideas of what you can give away.
  • ASK: Request anything you'd like to receive for free, to borrow or keep. See the types of gifts below for ideas of what you can request.
  • GRATITUDE: Share your gratitude for anything and everything you love about your Buy Nothing community. Gratitude fuels the magic.
Gifts of Self
A Gift of Self is anything that one Buy Nothing participant can do for another. It could be an evening of babysitting, a ride for an errand or appointment, help in the garden, a tour of the community for someone new, the gift of your own company in the form of a game of Scrabble, or anything else that one neighbor might do for another neighbor.
Gifts of Talent
A Gift of Talent is anything that one participant can teach another. Examples include: cooking or canning classes; language or computer lessons; in-person or online tutorials, advice, and shared expertise; tutoring and other ways of teaching, assisting, and learning from each other
Gifts of Time

A Gift of time refers to offering or asking for someone to spend time with you. Examples include: jogging/walking/workout buddies, invitations to join a book group, coffee/tea meet-ups, playdates for kids or pets, organizing an activity or adventure for the members of your Buy Nothing community.

Gifts of Community

A Gift of Community is a gift that brings people in your Buy Nothing community together. Examples include Buy Nothing, Share Everything events (everyone meets in a public place to give and receive a category of gifts such as books, clothing, board games & puzzles, etc.); Lending Libraries in which each person posts the items they're always willing to lend to Buy Nothing community members, each lender sets their own rules and manages their own collection of items available for load; Round Robins or Traveling Suitcases (themed collections of gifts that move around a community from person to person, with everyone adding/taking as they like); Buy Nothing community book groups, concerts, events and adventures that are created by and open to Buy Nothing community members, such as board game or puzzle nights, stargazing, singalongs, movie nights, etc.

Gifts of Assistance
A Gift of Assistance is any gift that helps a fellow Buy Nothing-er out. Examples include a tank of gas for an empty car, groceries for an empty fridge, help with a lost pet or treasure, a recipe for an easy dinner, a patch on a flat bike tire, and tips on how to make something from nothing.
Gifts of Stuff

A Gift of Stuff can come in many forms, including items of all kinds. For instance, Buy Nothing gifts being offered and received include: brand new items, used items, working items, broken items, pretty things, ugly things, food including leftovers, less tangible things such as recipes, reading suggestions, concert and event tickets, invitations to play cards or a board game or to join a book group. Gifts can be big: houses, boats, cars, airline and other travel tickets. Gifts can be small: a single nail, a roll of toilet paper, a marble. Gifts can be intangible, such as a poem or short story, directions to a beautiful local tree or walk, a photo you've taken of a beautiful local spot. Gifts can be things that some people might consider waste, such as dryer lint, aquarium water, chunks of concrete, piles of dandelions or twigs, etc.

Gifts of Buy Nothing-ness
Please DO share information about the Buy Nothing Project movement, events and resources that bring people from Buy Nothing communities around the world together, in person and/or online. We also allow discussions sparked by Gives, Asks and Gratitude posts, as well as discussions about a gift economy mindset, zero waste living, how to reduce our environmental impact and improve our social impact, about the Buy Nothing community in general and how to make it stronger and more accessible and inclusive (sometimes these discussions may be difficult or make people uncomfortable - that's okay).
Gratitude Posts
Use the Gratitude post function to express your gratitude for anything and everything good that Buy Nothing has brought to your life. You might be grateful for a gift you've received, for someone who received one of your gifts or gave something to you, for how your community has made your life easier or better or funnier. All forms and expressions of gratitude for all things related to Buy Nothing are welcome. The more gratitude people see expressed, the more they're inspired to post their own Gives and Asks, and the stronger your Buy Nothing community becomes. 
Keep it Legal
  • Don't offer or request anything illegal. Follow all national, regional, and local laws.
  • The Buy Nothing Project also prohibits giving or asking for items that endorse or oppose any current political party, candidate, or ballot option.
  • The Buy Nothing Project does allow neighbors to request, give, and receive items (example: signs, banners), and supplies to create these items, in support of social movements and events (example: Black Lives Matter, Pride parades, memorial vigils).
Show Your Humanity
  • Remember that every person participating in your group is a real life neighbor of yours. Each person here is of equal importance to this gift economy. Cruelty, harassment and hate speech will not be tolerated. All participants will abide by the Community Commitment.
  • The Buy Nothing Project welcomes all people, regardless of race, ancestry, national origin, economic status, ability/disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion, philosophy, politics, beliefs or values. As such, the communities are diverse and allow us all to experience what it’s like to give, receive, and share with people who may not experience the world as we do.
  • The Buy Nothing Project welcomes discussions about the impact of the actions and words within the app’s content. Each participant is fully responsible for their words, actions, and gifts and also for anything they delete. Each participant is empowered to make their own choices, being mindful that being a participant in their Buy Nothing community requires communication that doesn’t include such things as personal insults, slurs, or anything that qualifies as hate speech.

Regarding Complaints:
  • If you have a complaint about another participant, you have several options: Ignore content that bothers you, knowing that everyone participates as they like and that no one is ever forced to request or offer a gift they’re uncomfortable with; use the Community Commitment as a guide to start a discussion with your neighbors, addressing whatever the issue is; approach the person via other means, away from the app, to suggest a discussion to resolve the issue, as you would for complaints about people in your life outside of your Buy Nothing sphere; or block the participant. Each of us can curate our own sharing community that enable us to feel safe and most comfortable. Each Buy Nothing participant is responsible for resolving their own conflicts. Buy Nothing communities are “brave spaces” where we allow the space for people to speak up if they feel they’ve been treated unjustly.
  • We are an inclusive, equitable movement, not open to active haters. We encourage everyone to report accounts that are responsible for hate speech and hateful action directly to the platform they are using, so that the platform and the community are safer for all.
Build Trust & Community
Trust is the foundation of this gift economy, which will thrive when there is trust between the people sharing with each other. Act with honesty and empathy, using each interaction to build a culture of honesty and mindfulness. There are many ways to build trust and a few things we know damage trust in Buy Nothing communities - We’ve listed some below. If your content appears to destroy trust or community, it may be removed:

  • Stealing is Prohibited: Do not take anything from your neighbors without specific permission. If you discover that something is missing from your porch/home/doorstep, if something you did not set out as a gift has been taken, please ask in your community to see if a mistake was made. If you suspect theft or any other crime, contact your local authorities as you would for any situation.
  • Reselling: There is no rule against the reselling of Buy Nothing Project gifts outside of the app, but reselling must be done in ways that build trust. You simply need to share your intent to resell a gift when you request it. Givers are always free to give as they choose, and the disclosure of reselling respects each participant’s right to make informed and mindful choices about their giving. Many people are happy to give gifts that will be sold elsewhere to support organizations they respect, to help neighbors make a living by reselling, or to provide materials for artists and craftspeople who reuse gifted materials in their work. It is the responsibility of people who resell gifts to openly and clearly explain this when they ask for gifts they’d like to resell.
  • Respect Other's Requests: Don't pile onto another person's Ask post to request gifts that are being offered to them. Post your own Ask instead if you'd like to request a gift from your community.
  • Private Communications: Please help us keep the sharing where everyone can see it and benefit from it. It's nice to see who has replied to a post. It helps to build all sorts of connections. If you pressure others via private message, you are likely to be blocked by them. Gifting in the Buy Nothing Project is always at the discretion of the Giver.
  • Recruiting: Do not use the BuyNothing app as a means for collecting personal information about your neighbors, or to recruit people to join your religion, political party/candidate/ballot option, business or other organization. Buy Nothing communities are inclusive and equitable at their core. All participants should be respected as equals, just as they are.
  • Integrity, honesty and trust are required for your gift economy to flourish and for human-centered connections to develop.
  • No spam, scams, trolling or other actions that violate trust.
Give Freely
Trading, bartering, buying or selling is counter to the Buy Nothing Project mission. Keep in mind that all gifts must be freely given without any expectation of reward or another gift in return. There is no limit to giving or receiving in the app. Participants may offer and request as much as they’d like, as often as they’d like. No one is under any obligation to give or receive, but everyone may ask as they choose, and give as they choose.
Participate as Yourself
  • You must use your personal account, and not a business account.
  • You may share or request goods or services from or for your business, school, charity or other organization, as long as those offers or requests are not presented as a way of marketing, advertising, recruiting, promoting or otherwise “spreading the word” about your business or organization. We are a Person-to-Person network, therefore we ask that you not direct people to drop off items at the charity's address. If you are collecting for a charity or cause, make that clear, so long as you are the one picking up or providing your location as a person-to-person drop off or shipping location.
  • You may request and offer gifts in your community on behalf of your family, friends, organizations, etc. provided you do the pickups and drop offs. If you know someone who wants to participate in a Buy Nothing community and is able to do so, please help them download the app. If you know someone who can participate with assistance, that is a welcome gift of self to offer. You can help them participate in any way that makes their Buy Nothing experience accessible to them. We ask all participants to expand their understanding of what accessibility and inclusion looks like to allow for shared accounts, people who offer and request on behalf of others, and people whose abilities and circumstances impact their participation in ways that may be new to you. Gift economies are especially strong when individuals are empowered to participate directly, as themselves, and there is a beautiful diversity in how this manifests.
How Does Participating as Yourself Work In Practice?
How can I offer a gift of professional goods or services without advertising?
Let's say you're a professional fish groomer, and you want to share your skills (and this could apply equally if you wanted to offer a set of special goldfish grooming tools you've created). You could definitely offer your services, but they'd need to come from you, without any mention of your business name, directions to your business office, store, or website, or anything else that might even remotely smack of marketing or advertising. You could say something like "Offered: One grooming session for your goldfish. I'm a professional fish groomer and would love to give an hour of my time to help your Goldie look her best. Please let me know if your fish could use a spa day. If there's a lot of interest, I'll choose a recipient tomorrow around 8 pm." As with everything, the offer needs to be completely free, given with no expectation of any return or reward. It’s fine if a conversation develops and people ask about your work, your training or expertise, your business, etc - there’s a difference between natural conversation between neighbors who are interested in learning about each other and using the app for marketing. In a Buy Nothing community, we practice building relationships through natural conversations, knowing this leads to a more resilient real life community in many ways.

Give From Your Own Abundance
  • The Buy Nothing Project was set up as an experiment to see just how many of each community's needs can be met right there in the community. We don't allow referrals for where you can purchase an item or pay for a service.
  • If you want to tell people where they can receive charitable assistance, we ask you to add #communityresource to your post or comment so everyone can find it.
  • The traditional charity and community support paradigm often splits people into “haves” and “have-nots,” and the two aren’t on equal footing. The Buy Nothing Project is a worldwide person-to-person gift economy that can subvert this traditional have-have not relationship. Everyone here is both a “have” with things to give away (whether those are tangible goods or gifts of self) and a “have not” with wants and needs that the community can help fulfill.
  • Please focus first on helping each other whenever and however you can with your own hands, time, stuff, and presence. This social experiment is about finding ways to strengthen connections between neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing creatively.
We are a Gift Economy
We are not a community bulletin board, political campaign space, fundraising platform, proselytizing or prayer space, crime watch, or buy/sell/trade zone.
  • This is not the place to refer people to ways to meet their needs or desires through the market economy. This means the following things are not allowed here: marketing or advertising; offers or requests for paid employment; offers of items for sale, trade or rent; requests for money, GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaigns and the like, requests for items you’d like to buy or rent; items you wish to barter, trade or exchange; real estate for sale or rent; encouraging people to buy, sell, or trade items or services elsewhere.
  • This is the perfect place to offer free gifts of all legal kinds, including free gifts of self in the form of services, skills, assistance, items of all kinds and in all conditions, etc. You may request or offer anything you might otherwise want or need to buy; since this is the Buy Nothing Project, you just may find what you want and need here without buying it.
  • This is not a community bulletin board, political campaign space, platform for proselytizing or prayer, or a crime watch app. Suspicions you have about your neighbors, promotion of your personal religious, ideological, or political agenda, political swag for current candidates or ballot options, and info about community events belong elsewhere.
Ask and Give Creatively
  • We encourage you to experiment with your giving, receiving, and sharing. Find ways to include as many people as possible, and to offer and receive. There are so many creative ways of giving and asking. If you need or want something, wow your neighbors with a photo to draw their attention to your words, tell a story about why you might need or want something, or include a joke or philosophical observation with your request. On the giving side, consider offering a service that is easy for you, like tailoring clothes (this could help someone with an upcoming job interview,) organizing a garage, fixing a toaster, or even offering their gifts on their behalf if they're downsizing, or moving, and don't have the time.
  • Other ways to give creatively are through community lending libraries, clothing share events, free holiday boutiques, round robins, junk in the trunk, books and beverages events, community gleaning, neighborhood potlucks, free bike programs, and other get-togethers that involve sharing. Some communities even set up Buy Nothing booths at their local farmers markets to extend the giving and receiving further to their communities.
All Members Participate At Their Own Risk
The Buy Nothing Project and ShareThing accept no responsibility for any loss, damage, or legal liability that may arise from a user’s participation in the app.

Additional Suggestions for Successful Participation

Here are some suggestions for successful participation in the app. These are not hard-and-fast rules, but are suggestions and requests by the Buy Nothing Project, based on our experiences, and our mission to build and foster healthy hyperlocal gift-economies.
Additional Guidelines
Full Disclosure
Condition of Item:
  • We all participate in this project at our own risk. Please be honest when you describe an item you’re offering - it’s fine to offer items in any condition, but your fellow participants need to know if something needs to be fixed, cleaned, picked up with a large vehicle, etc. If a gift has special sentimental value, we’d like to hear that too - stories about gifts are hugely popular and help build community.
  • A giver is not required to take back an item if it does not meet a recipient’s expectations. Nor are recipients required to accept an item if, upon seeing it in person and before taking it home, they realize it won’t work for them. If you find that a gift won’t work for you, just be honest and let the giver know. It’s perfectly wonderful to re-gift Buy Nothing gifts if you find yourself with something that doesn’t work for you.
Cultivate a Mindset of Openness, Trust, And Empathy: The following are steps we ask each of us to take whenever we are taking action and communicating
Commit to your Community
Rather than offering the same gift in multiple locations, we would love for you to commit to your immediate BuyNothing community and offer first to your nearby neighbors. But if items are also offered elsewhere, on other platforms, please let your neighbors know.
When responding to an offer, please be sure that you communicate clearly about your ability to pick up the item in a timely manner. Givers are not expected to hold onto items for a recipient for any longer than is convenient, but we do hope that all participants will do what they can to work out any scheduling mishaps. If your neighbor has not picked up an item you’ve set out for them, feel free to message them privately, or let them know in your post that it’s still waiting for them, or you can always choose another recipient for your gift.
If you are unable to transport an item, be sure to include that information, whether it’s an offer or a request. Sometimes, other neighbors may be able to help with transportation; this is a great gift to request.
Gift Value
Please do not tell your community how much a gift cost, how much it is worth, or how much it could be sold for. In Buy Nothing gift economies, all gifts are equal, and monetary value is irrelevant.
Chime In
If you see something that you feel is not in keeping with the Rules and Standards of the Buy Nothing Project, feel free to let the participant know. It’s always helpful when neighbors remind fellow neighbors about each Buy Nothing’s unique rules.
Practice Patience - Let it Simmer
You can build a stronger Buy Nothing gift economy when you move more slowly to select recipients for your gifts, and when you choose recipients through a variety of methods. Letting your offer “simmer”, "soak" or "stew" for a bit before choosing a recipient will allow more people to respond to your offer. If you need an item gone right away, you can choose to use a variation of "first come, first served” or a "flash give" to select a recipient, but it’s much more positive for the entire community if you can use other methods, such as drawing a name from a hat.
Practice Patience - Curbside Giving
Let your neighbors know if you’ve put something out on the curb as a free offering, or if you see something in your neighborhood that one of your neighbors might be able to use.
Practice Patience - Keep Trying
Sometimes gifts are offered and don’t find a recipient. Sometimes requests are shared but not fulfilled. Don’t give up! It can be discouraging or feel embarrassing when your offers and requests aren’t met with enthusiasm. Participating in a gift economy can make all of us feel emotionally vulnerable at times. There are many reasons that offers and requests aren’t met. Sometimes people are too busy or focused on outside events to check in with their Buy Nothing community, sometimes it’s just one of those days or weeks. Please know that this is a shared experience. We encourage you to try again - offer a different gift, or offer the same gift with a new description; post your request again, with a genuine bit of your personality in your wording. Experiment, and feel free to share your feelings and frustrations, to request help and tips that can make your offers and requests more successful.
Practice Patience - Build a Shared Narrative
Please keep your content available, even after your gifts have been given, your requests fulfilled, and your gratitude seen. Each interaction is a valuable addition to your shared narrative. We have learned that a shared narrative built on an archive of content, helps new and longtime participants build a shared local gift economy vocabulary, and this shared vocabulary, complete with old stories of gifts long given, is a cornerstone of a sustainable local gift economy. Please do not delete your content, but allow it to remain as part of your gift economy’s story.
Be Yourself
The goal is to grow a web of interdependence between real-life neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing. Get to know your neighbors. Let your neighbors get to know you. We are all a part of this amazing experiment together!

While we don’t want the gifting communities to turn into neighborhood chat groups or discussion forums, we do want participants to have natural conversation with each other, and share about themselves and why they might want a particular item, or a personal story about an item they are giving away. It’s great when an offer or request turns into a conversation about other topics that are connected to the stories that go with the gift. As long as your comments relate to the offer or request in some way and don’t violate any other rules, please share them. This sort of conversation helps neighbors connect, offer support and encouragement, and get to know each other better.

Membership Criteria & Removals
Criteria For Membership
• Adults only

All users participate at their own risk

By joining the BuyNothing app, you agree to participate in this Project at your own risk. You further confirm that you are an adult, and that you agree to abide by the Community Commitment.
The BuyNothing app is for individuals, not businesses; join the app as yourself, not as a business profile.

Definition of Adult: Our definition of “adult” refers to the *most restrictive* definition in your area (country/state/county/city). In most cases, this age is the legal drinking age, but this is not always the case. By using the most restrictive age requirement, we are able to freely give things in our groups that would otherwise be disallowed, including items of an adult nature. This way, everyone truly has the legal right to participate at their own risk, per their local laws.

Removal From the App
Grounds for removal are described in this document, and may include but are not limited to:

  • You must meet the Apple and Google age rules to download the app

  • Spam, scams, advertising/marketing, fundraising, offering items or services for rent, sale, barter, or trade

  • Repeated posting of content that is legitimately reported. This includes repeated posting of identical content that floods the feed, in other words, content that has the impact of spam.

  • Joining the app with a fraudulent account(s) or with the purpose to defraud others

  • Hate speech, cruelty, or threats towards or between participants

  • Dishonesty or obtaining items under false pretenses in order to sell said items without disclosing that intention

  • Repeated instances of disregard for the rules or principles

  • Repeated complaints about your gifting community or rules

  • Statements that make it clear to the community that you do not intend to build trust or participate in line with the mission and rules.

  • Using the app as a platform for promoting any personal agenda that doesn't meet the mission or rules of the Buy Nothing Project.

Community Guidelines copyright 2023 The Buy Nothing Project.
Most recent version updated 19 November, 2023