22 Comments

The Buy Nothing Project Begins

Buy Nothing is hyper-local and hyper-logical. © Liesl Clark

July 31st, 2013
In just 3 weeks, an experiment we launched on Facebook has taken off faster than any venture we’ve ever tried. It’s taken us years to find the right combination of technology and community to create a sustainable sharing and caring economy. The new project is  a gift economy based on the simple acts of giving and receiving, no cash involved.

IMG_5808 Received© Liesl Clark

© Liesl Clark

My giving basket. Produce shared with neighbors in our Buy Nothing group. 

And the gifts themselves are goods of all kinds and services.

Face painting is a gift, not just a talent. © Melisa Lunt
Face painting is a gift, not just a talent. © Melisa Lunt

When I first moved to the Puget Sound Island where we live, I started a Yahoo group called Island Garden Share.  Once a month, our members would meet to share our perennial plants we had divided from our gardens, including veggies and fruits we could replant. We were avid gardeners or newbies wanting to avoid spending a lot of money at the local nurseries to put in new perennial beds. It was the perfect way for me to make island friends. As time passed, after 2 years of meeting, the group fizzled out, mostly due to busy schedules.

Gifting. © Liesl Clark
Gifting. © Liesl Clark

3 years later Trash Backwards co-founder Rebecca and I started Bainbridge Barter, a chance for gardeners to share their bounty once a week at a public park. We treated it like a pot luck where members brought their own produce, laid it out on a table, and took from the table what they needed from other gardener’s offerings. I fed my family most of the year from the fresh fruits and veggies from this group. The Saturday a.m. meeting time became too difficult for many of us, so after 2 years the group petered out.

Neighbors Share Garden Bounty with Each Other in a Public Park, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

Neighbors Share Garden Bounty with Each Other in a Public Park, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

3 Weeks ago, the experiment in a local sharing economy took a new turn: Rebecca set us up as the administrators of a Facebook group we named Buy Nothing Bainbridge. She had asked her local Facebook friends whether they would be interested in joining such a group. Over 60 people responded positively. This was the critical mass that told us the group could be formed, a social media-driven alternative to Freecycle, with an instant membership. We would use Facebook as our free app, our friends and neighbors as our evangelists, and our own stuff to seed the flames of a smoldering community fire aching for connection and a means of sharing our communal bounty.

A Buy Nothing Bainbridge member swooning over fresh baked bread she received from a neighbor. © Melisa Lunt
A Buy Nothing Bainbridge member swooning over fresh baked bread she received from a neighbor. © Melisa Lunt

Here’s a description from our group page about the Buy Nothing Project:

“Buy Nothing: Give Freely. Share the bounty. Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. ”

There's something just plain funny about our stuff, especially when our pets are involved. © Karen Dueck Richter
There’s something just plain funny about our stuff, especially when our pets are involved. © Karen Dueck Richter

We all have stuff, whether too much or not enough, and in this modern world where we’re increasingly tied ever more tightly to our internet devices, we have opportunity at this moment in history to use social media at its best to share the bountiful material culture around us with our neighbors. At its core, The Buy Nothing Project is an experiment in gifting what we have, to prevent the overproduction of unnecessary goods. It’s also an opportunity to seamlessly move goods as gifts from the haves to the have nots with zero cash in the transaction.

This wedding dress was offered to the Buy Nothing group. © Julia Benziger
This wedding dress was offered to the Buy Nothing group. © Julia Benziger

Having seen first-hand the amount of plastic washing up on our ocean shores, trickling down our watersheds, Rebecca and I want to tackle the problem of manufacturers outproducing our ability to dispose of our waste. But this time we’re looking at the problem from a new angle, the Reduce  angle, the very first of the 3 Rs. But rather than approach the problem from the end-of-life perspective, i.e., the waste end, we’ve taken a dramatic shift forward, tackling the obvious usefulness of things before they become true “trash.” Giving stuff a new life, through gifting and reuse, means a potential new purchase of a brand spanking new item can be averted and a connection with a neighbor can be made.

Don't buy shelves, ask your neighbors for them. © Ellen Wixted
Don’t buy shelves, ask your neighbors for them. © Ellen Wixted

Three weeks into the Buy Nothing Project we have over 1000 members in our local groups, 4 more groups in our state, 1 in California, and many groups pending worldwide. Methinks the gift economy is ready to come to fruition in willing pockets of the planet.

Housewares, items from your garage, kids' toys, even services can be gifted. © Rebecca Rockefeller
Housewares, items from your garage, kids’ toys, even services can be gifted. © Rebecca Rockefeller

If you’d like to start a Buy Nothing group in your home town, let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to get you started.

Your community will thank you if you start a Buy Nothing group there. © Jodie Garhardt
Your community will thank you if you start a Buy Nothing group there. © Jodie Garhardt

— Liesl, Rebecca, and the Buy Nothing Project

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About Pioneering The Simple Life

Filmmaker, Writer, Catalyst for Social Change

22 comments on “The Buy Nothing Project Begins

  1. Thank you everyone that have offered help for a fellow employee of mine, I am still waiting for a more detailed list of items that Julie needs. As soon as I get it I will let everyone know. I am on my way to Edmonds going to a family funeral so if I don’t get back with a list tonight I will have one tomorrow. Thanks again for all your help.Fran

  2. […] they’d like to pass on to a petite yet passionate plastic pet shop owner? Through our local Buy Nothing group, I was able to send out one request for the little buggers, and within a few days, I had over 70 […]

  3. I would love to start a group and would welcome any information and help you are willing to give!
    Thanks!

  4. I would love to start a group and would welcome and information and guidance available! Thanks!!

    • Hi Heimlich1. We would love to start your group. The first step is to read our How To page and then contact me by email to let me know what your region is so I can start your group page. Rebecca Rockefeller and I will co-administrate the group with you to help give tips to members and assist in guiding the group towards a true gift economy. Here’s the How To page and my email is clarkliesl at mac dot com.

      https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

  5. Hi Heimlich1. We would love to start your group. The first step is to read our How To page and then contact me by email to let me know what your region is so I can start your group page. Rebecca Rockefeller and I will co-administrate the group with you to help give tips to members and assist in guiding the group towards a true gift economy. Here’s the How To page and my email is clarkliesl at mac dot com.

    https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

  6. Is there a Buy Nothing Project near Ceres, California,?

    • Hi, Sherill! It looks like we don’t have a group in your area yet! If there isn’t a Buy Nothing group yet in your community (check this list which is updated frequently https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ ), we’d love to see a gift economy started where you are. We just need a local volunteer to join us as admin (our entire network is run by volunteers). Let us know if you’re interested – send a message to thebuynothingproject@gmail.com with your location details, and we’ll start from there!

  7. Please REMOVE the reference in regards to RABBITS!!!! They should NOT be just given away to anyone let alone to someone with a snake. It is horrible considering rabbits are the 3rd most popular pets in the world. Do you want people to give their dogs and cats away to people who will feed them to their snakes or other animals. NO!!!

    • Hi, Lyn-

      Thanks for your feedback. We understand how you feel and know the concerns of gifting companion animals. We hope that no one is gifting an animal to another member to be food – our goal of transparency in all giftings is a great way to prevent that. Members can see who they are giving to, visit the home the animal is going to, and be a part of that process. They can also choose not to gift to someone in the group, thus giving the giving member a solid feeling they are gifting to the right place.

      Below is a response written by our founders that can be found in our FAQs:

      Q: Can people really give away their pets and livestock here? I think that’s a bad idea!

      A: Yes, we let people offer their pets and livestock to their fellow group members. We’re well aware of all of the horrible things that happen to animals when they’re carelessly re-homed or, worse, abandoned. When someone offers their beloved animals to a new home via their BNP group, they’re able to choose the new home, ask as many questions as they’d like, see where the animal will be living, and stay in touch with the people adopting it.

      We trust the transparency in our groups and the fact that our groups are populated by real life neighbors to provide a layer of protection not present in anonymous re-homing situations. When you find a new home for an animal in a BNP group, you’re doing that in full view of your neighbors, who will most definitely be keeping an eye on what’s happening.

      If you’d like to read more, here is the link to all our FAQs:

      https://buynothingproject.org/about/faqs/

      Thank you for your interest in our social experiment!

  8. I would love to start one in Orlando.

    • Hi Kate!

      If there isn’t a Buy Nothing group yet in your community (check this list which is updated frequently https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ ), we’d love to see a gift economy started where you are. We just need a local volunteer to join us as admin (our entire network is run by volunteers).

      Let us know if you’re interested, please fill out the form you will find on the page in the following link. Once you have done so, the Development Admin for your area will contact you. Please have patience, this process is done in our volunteers’ free time, as such a reply may take some time, but I assure you they will respond.

      https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

  9. I would like to start a group I live in Kenai, Alaska.

    • Hi Maryam!

      If there isn’t a Buy Nothing group yet in your community (check this list which is updated frequently https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ ), we’d love to see a gift economy started where you are. We just need a local volunteer to join us as admin (our entire network is run by volunteers).

      If you’re interested in being an Admin, please fill out the form you will find on the page in the following link. Once you have done so, the Development Admin for your area will contact you. Please have patience, this process is done in our volunteers’ free time, as such a reply may take some time, but I assure you they will respond.

      https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

  10. Im looking for a tea set or two for my daughters birthay party, she wants to do a tea party & this is the only item I’m having trouble finding

    • Hi Evelyn!

      To participate in the Buy Nothing Project, where you can give freely, share creatively and ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow; you’ll need to find and join the group in your neighborhood from this list: https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ which is updated frequently.

      Best of luck with your search for a tea set for your daughters party!

  11. @rebecca Rockefeller @ and Kim Scott-Olson- I would like to be a member of Buy Nothing Bainbridge

  12. I haven’t checked yet but if there has NOT been one started for Kenosha WI I am down to get one going.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Did you find your hyper-local Buy Nothing community group? Please check this list (which is updated frequently) for the groups in Wisconsin, and copy/paste the link for your neighborhood into your browser, which will then give you an option to ‘request to join.’ https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/#WI

      If there isn’t a Buy Nothing group yet in your community, we’d love to see a gift economy started where you are. We just need a local volunteer to join us as admin (our entire network is run by volunteers).

      If you’re interested in becoming an Admin, please fill out the form you will find on the page in the following link. Once you have done so, the Development Admin for your area will contact you. Please have patience, this process is done in our volunteers’ free time, as such a reply may take some time, but I assure you they will respond. Currently there is a backlog of several weeks, due to the huge increase in interest; our Development Team is working diligently through the requests for new groups as quickly as they are able.

      https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

  13. Hi, my community would love to start this! Long Beach, MS. Please send me an email with details on how to get started!

    • Hi Emily,

      If there isn’t a Buy Nothing group yet in your community (check this list which is updated frequently https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ ), we’d love to see a gift economy started where you are. We just need a local volunteer to join us as admin (our entire network is run by volunteers).

      If you’re interested in becoming an Admin, please fill out the form you will find on the page in the following link. Once you have done so, the Development Admin for your area will contact you. Please have patience, this process is done in our volunteers’ free time, as such a reply may take some time, but I assure you they will respond. Currently there is a backlog of several weeks, due to the huge increase in interest; our Development Team is working diligently through the requests for new groups as quickly as they are able.

      https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

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