What Does A Buy Nothing Community Look Like?
When people ask us what a Buy Nothing community really looks like, we tell them it’s an opportunity to have a hands-on chance to take part in a social movement spreading across the globe, enabling people and communities to commit episodic acts of daily good together. We provide the freeware for you to set up local gift economies, using social media to bring to the fore myriad random acts of kindness for neighbors to partake in day-in and day-out. The gift economies are sharing-groups, where members of a community get to know each other by giving, asking, and expressing their gratitude.
Interested in a sampling of what you might see offered or asked-for in a Buy Nothing gift economy? We’re happy to help provide a look inside, so you can decide if you’d like to establish one in your community, too.
People give clothes, dinners, crock pots, plants, garden tools. We’ve seen used and clean Ziploc bags offered, laundry detergent, antiques, bicycles, canoes, kombucha, branches, flowers, cement blocks, eggs, beds, broccoli, custard, and crickets. There’s no limit to what you can give or receive.
It’s the services offered and offbeat requests that are perhaps the most touching, enabling people to give in the most precious ways. Members use their words, rather than abbreviated “ISO,” for example, which can feel alienating to those who don’t typically join buy/sell/trade groups. No trades or swaps are allowed, as all gifts are freely given. Here’s a list of a few things that happened in our local community last month to help you get started on your own Buy Nothing creative giving.
Examples of Buy Nothing Gives and Asks:
– A Nurse offers her time to care for an elderly person or give childcare.
– A father asks for doll clothes for his child.
– An arborist offers her services to check the health of a landowner’s trees.
– A woman needs over-the-counter medicines late at night to help treat a UTI, and neighbors respond quickly and compassionately.
– A man asks for blackberries for wine he’s making and then shares the wine with the whole community.
– An experienced guitarist offers 4 free guitar lessons for a child getting started.
– A family whose son just had an appendectomy on vacation in HI receives gift baskets upon their return home.
– A Buy Nothing group outfits a 10 year-old girl whose family just had a house fire.
— A woman doubles her recipe for dinner, which means she has enough to give a meal to a family nearby.
– Several college students moving into apartments are given furniture and kitchen stuff.
– Flowers contributed from members’ gardens become large bouquets for a BN member’s friend who just passed away.
– A new first grade teacher’s room is outfitted with books, rug, and stuffed animals.
— Neighbors get together at a community spot to split plants and share the bounties of their gardens.
— A woman breaks her leg and the community comes together to take turns walking her dog.
– A ‘clothing boutique’ takes place, free clothing offered to all who attend. And the extra clothes make a round through the Buy Nothing community over the next few weeks in a “Round Robin” where people who couldn’t attend the clothing boutique event can try clothes on for themselves, take what they want, and add to the box any clothing they want to get rid of, and pass it on to the next person.
© Liesl Clark
— A chef teaches a cooking class for interested members.
— A couple who own a food truck requests ripped or stained towels to clean their deep fryers.
— A crochet club is started.
— A single mother requests (and receives) a place for her small family to stay when her lease is set to run out before her offer is accepted on her new house.
— A free Halloween costume event takes place in a member’s home.
The best way to jump into a Buy Nothing gift economy is to just start giving! It’s a great way to introduce yourself and generate some good will.
Posting in a Buy Nothing Gift Economy:
We are local gift economies, so everything is free and people don’t need to ask where to buy things. There’s no need to make referrals or links to businesses, because we try to meet every request in this innovative sharing economy, without having to go outside of it to meet a want or need. Trades and cash are not allowed.
You can give your gifts to whomever you choose, for whatever reason. You may choose someone randomly, or in some more creative way, like based on the silliest pet photos posted, funniest joke, best limerick, solving a riddle, someone you have never met before, someone who has not been offered a gift before, etc.
It is nice to leave your offers open for a period of time, to let them simmer, so that everyone gets a chance to see them and express interest.
Simply saying “next” or “interested” as a response to the offer of a gift can feel anonymous to the giver, so the more information you provide about why you’re interested in the gift, the better. These are not ‘first come first serve’ groups, unless the giver chooses to do it that way.
Please don’t privately message people asking for them to give you a certain item. Private messages should only be used to exchange pick-up information.
Don’t be discouraged if you are not picked to receive an item you really want. You are always free to post your own requests at any time. You’ll get best results if you introduce yourself and explain how the item you are seeking will enhance your life.
There’s no need to delete your posts because the community history is always nice to keep on record.
We love posts of gratitude! It makes everyone feel good to see that people appreciate the gifts they receive.
We encourage BN selfies when community members meet up to give to each other. The selfies are fun, sharing them in our groups boosts everyone’s feel-good hormones, and friendships are made. Person-to-person giving is where it’s at.
Show Your Humanity
Buy Nothing gift economies are human-centered groups, and everyone works hard to keep the focus on giving, asking, and gratitude, rather than on discussions about community issues, politics or community bulletin board-type announcements.
The Buy Nothing Project is not an echo chamber. Researchers are finding that online activities are generally allowing each of us to find our own like-minded communities and to stay within those, where we’re unlikely to share online space with people whose ideas and philosophies differ much from our own. The Buy Nothing Project bucks this trend. We don’t require any participants to subscribe to any particular philosophy, politics, or world view. We welcome everyone and we also require everyone to follow the Community Agreement in order to facilitate human connections within each community’s diverse mix. Offers and requests of all kinds that are allowed by Buy Nothing Project standards. This means we guarantee that eventually you’ll see things offered that offend and anger you, as well as things that gladden your heart and give you hope. This is true for each of us, no matter our personal politics, philosophies, and values.
Participating in our diverse communities brings many challenges and incredible opportunities for learning about ourselves and others. Being part of this project means you’ll be connecting with the people who live in your neighborhood, even the ones who differ from you in ways that may push your buttons (and you theirs) in powerful ways. The lessons that come along with this are not always easy, but we offer them as one more freely-given gift you’ll receive from your participation in this movement.
It’s always wonderful to set your sharing parameters so that you’re giving and asking in a hyper-local community and as more people join in, you can make your sharing even more hyperlocal by finding ways to participate in less crowded sharing communities. When the founders of the Buy Nothing Project created this global movement in their hometown, the idea was to focus on smaller, hyper local neighborhoods.
When your sharing community reaches about 1000 participants, the intimacy of the experience changes in character, members feel more anonymous and the feed can move quickly, with a lot of the focus being on “stuff” rather than people.
There are many benefits to ‘hyper-local’:
— Neighborliness – the vision for the Buy Nothing Project is for neighbors to get to know one another, and to form bonds and connections, weaving a web among all of the neighbors. As the community grows, it becomes harder to know one another and to interact with all people. In encouraging personal and face to face communication, rather than anonymous giving, it becomes increasingly harder to get to know everyone in the community the larger we become.
— Warmth – in a smaller community where we can all get to know one another, the atmosphere is warmer, and more intimate. We know the people posting. We will know that a family is having their first trip to Disney World, or that someone is caring for their elderly parents, that someone is getting married, or that someone was diagnosed with cancer. We can shed tears of joy that Talia is expecting after years of trying, and gather baby clothes. We can more easily reach out when we know each other and interact to help one another, rather than say, “Her name started with an T …. trying to remember …”
— Less Competition – in a smaller gift economy, there will be less competition for gifts, and we will get to know each other better. Instead of a line of 10+ people all clamoring for the same gift, you may see 2-3 people chatting and interacting on a post. Rather than just picking a random person out of a line, with a smaller sampling you can pause and think about what they might do with the gift, why they would need it, and your interactions with this person in the past. When it is your time to ask for that dresser that you really, really, really want, your chances of receiving will increase exponentially!
— Calmness- The page may be less active, and that may be a good thing. Calmer, slower browsing is something that we could all use in our often hectic, chaotic, go-go-go lives these days. Taking a moment to really pause on a post and appreciate the kindness that is here could be a welcome change.
— Care for our environment – the Buy Nothing Project has opportunity to bring about a positive environmental impact by reducing our consumption levels, saving items from landfills, and driving less. The vision that we have in the project is one in which we can walk or bike to give and receive gifts more often. We hope to reduce our distances in driving, and lessen our carbon footprint in the only planet that we have.
— Accountability – in a smaller giving community, behaviors are more noticeable. If someone is contacting people to pressure them to give to them, when the neighbors know each other it is more noticeable. If there are people who are rude, inconsiderate, or a No Show, it is a much easier to hide these behaviors in a bigger, active group.
— Safety – In smaller, less anonymous spaces, regarding issues of risk and safety, it is much easier to spot suspicious behavior.
— Ease of pick ups – it can be much less of a hassle to pick up when the gift is right around the corner, rather than a 12 minute drive. More than that, participating with people who are so close to you can give you opportunity to meet the people right in your area. In one town that sprouted its Buy Nothing Facebook group into 2 groups in the first week due to growth, a neighbor connected with a member of the group who, as it turned out, lived five houses down! They became fast friends, and had never interacted before despite being in the bigger group for years together.
— Outreach – A smaller gifting community can help make new members and quiet members feel more comfortable in a smaller, safer environment.
Still looking for more info on just what makes a Buy Nothing gift economy unique? Check out our Fine Print (our rules and guidelines.) And, if that just feels like too much reading, Jamie Carbaugh has created a nifty video version of it that’s easy and fun to watch. Thanks Jamie!
Buy Nothing groups are less about stuff and more about community. If there isn’t one in your community and you’d like to work with us to start one, contact us and we’ll get you started!
And if you feel that our description of a Buy Nothing gift economy doesn’t look and feel anything like the Buy Nothing gift economy in your community, check our our free online community-building course that gives you tools for helping your community come into alignment with the Buy Nothing vision.