17 Comments

Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively.

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

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.

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

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.

— Liesl, Rebecca, and the Buy Nothing Project

17 comments on “Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively.

  1. *
    Hi! I’m interested in starting a group in my area! We currently do this amount neighbors but would love to invite more! Let me know how to get started!

    • Hi Gigi! Thanks for your interest! If you’ve checked the list https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ and there isn’t a group for your community, we’d love to have a group in your neighborhood!

      To start a group in your neighborhood (or learn more about what would be involved in doing so https://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/ ), the next step is to follow up with a Development admin. You will need to work together to define a manageable area. (A map you can both access may be helpful in this process.) Please feel free to send us an email directly with information about where you reside, so you can take a look at the details for starting a group in your area.

      The email address is thebuynothingproject [at sign] gmail. At the moment — just so you know what to expect — we’re all volunteers, many with families and jobs, and there has recently been a huge influx of new-group requests. Thanks in advance for your patience!

  2. Our group in SE Portland is so rich, I cant imagine how I got on in my life without a community around…but they were around this whole time. People bring meals to sick neighbors, they drive each other to events, gifting items of great need or of silly wants. And in my case, aside from all the perks we share as a group, my hyper local buy nothing group helped to save the life of my puppy when she had a terrible accident. I needed help and the response was so immediate and supportive.

  3. *
    I’ve checked your list and there is not one in my area and I would like to start one. Thanks!

    • Hello Annette, Thanks for your interest! If you’ve checked the list https://buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/ and there isn’t a group for your community, we’d love to have a group in your neighborhood!
      To start a group in your neighborhood (or learn more about what would be involved in doing sohttps://buynothingproject.org/start-a-group/ ), the next step is to follow up with a Development admin. You will need to work together to define a manageable area. (A map you can both access may be helpful in this process.) Please feel free to send us an email directly with information about where you reside, so you can take a look at the details for starting a group in your area.
      The email address is thebuynothingproject [at sign] gmail. At the moment — just so you know what to expect — we’re all volunteers, many with families and jobs, and there has recently been a huge influx of new-group requests. Thanks in advance for your patience!

  4. Know more about, cups and sausers. What to do with them.

  5. I am so interested! What an awesome idea!!

  6. I would like to start a group in Milton fl there are a lot of families in need plus foster and adoption homes are at a all time high. They could use the produce.

    • 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!

  7. Hi!
    I checked and there is no group in my area, I’m in Burnaby and would like to start a group, what’s the process? Does it takes a lot of time to run the group?
    Thanks!

    • Hi!

      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.

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

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

  8. I would love for this to exist in Puerto Rico.

    • Hi Peter!

      We’d love to see a gift economy started in Puerto Rico too. 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.

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

      Thanks for your interest in our social experiment!

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