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 BuyNothing7 Challenge
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 but essentials in the BuyNothing7 Challenge
- 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