Buy Nothing Project
Determining Group Footprints
This document was created by Buy Nothing Project volunteers on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project.

Notes about Size for New Groups
Over the 8+ years of the Buy Nothing Project, we’ve guided thousands of people through the set-up and daily function of thousands of Buy Nothing Project groups serving millions of people. We’ve learned how online groups that are too large have a more difficult time creating a sense of community and connection between participants.. We’ve learned that groups that start out on the larger side will need to consider their growth options sooner and more frequently until they find their functional and positive group size. Reconfiguring groups too often can be rough on the community, which runs counter to the mission of the Buy Nothing Project.. We’ve learned that failing to consider the factors of race and socioeconomic status can lead to groups that reinforce gentrification and historic redlining or other forms of segregation. We can approach the creation of a group’s footprint and name to form a community that dismantles these damaging forces by forming a Buy Nothing group that’s as diverse as possible in every possible respect.

To balance the need for enough members to create a group and the desire not to reconfigure or close groups to new members too often or too soon, we suggest a base population between 10,000 and 35,000 residents. 10,000 tends to work for communities where a majority of people have reliable internet access, time to spend online, and awareness of the Buy Nothing Project; 35,000 tends to work for communities where fewer people have reliable internet access, time to spend online, and/or an awareness of the Buy Nothing Project.

Some info/links that might be helpful in determining boundaries for a group. Many of these resources speak specifically to the United States; if you know of similar resources for other countries, please complete our Contact a Buy Nothing Librarian form to let us know about them:

  1. Consider the demographics of race and socioeconomic status in your group using the resources listed below. If your neighborhood has a history of segregation or redlining, please take this into account and find ways to make the groups as diverse as possible, avoiding the same boundaries that governments or banks may have used for segregating neighborhoods as part of systemic racist practices. Buy Nothing Project groups would like to find new inclusive boundaries to serve communities in the most equitable way possible.
  2. US resources
  4. - You must click on “Add map labels”. This website will not work with Chrome or Microsoft Edge, you will not be able to see streets/labels, use Firefox or Safari.
  6. - This is a historical perspective
  8. - shows trends in cities but hard to break it down into specifics needed for group boundaries1) can give you a map of neighborhoods/towns/cities/counties for a general idea of neighborhood footprints.
  9. can give you a map of neighborhoods/towns/cities/counties for a general idea of how to define a neighborhood or come up with a good name that locals will recognize. s
  10. Check for transportation concerns such as where the bus lines run or if there are pockets of the group that are not easily accessible from other parts of the group.
  11. Check for natural (mother nature) barriers such as lakes/rivers/mountains, and also man-made barriers between neighborhoods such as freeways, road ends/cul-de-sacs.
  12. Consider the local group footprint definitions for the existing groups in the area and whether you’d like to match up with their soft edges.
  13. If the town/city you live in is near or over the 35K suggested upper limit for population, it may be best to consider creating a group for residents in just part of the town to allow you to include people that live outside of the town proper but may still have a mailing address in the town or consider themselves residents. Any boundary is a form of segregation. So, for example, if you only include the town proper, then future groups may be created to include the surrounding area and your town, which is allowed with overlapping groups.
US specific for population:
  1. uses census data and separates everything in smaller and smaller areas to make it easy to find the population of any area. It also includes population/race information for those areas.
  2. is another source for possible footprints and demographics
  3. (ignore the subheading to this site) - it gives some neighborhood names for cities that might be a helpful place to start.
  4. is useful for town footprints, and can give some useful neighborhood information for large cities. It can also give you an indication of socioeconomic divides within an area
  5. is another real estate website that has useful information about neighborhood and city maps, and about socioeconomic differences to consider.
  6. has a lot of demographic information
  7. can be useful, but local admins for NextDoor create whatever boundaries they want, so the maps may not reflect actual neighborhood footprints for their groups.
Beyond the US specific for population
  1. can be good for finding information outside the US. For Australia this usually has population numbers for suburbs.
  2. a general Google search for <city> <population> can provide useful information
  4. is a population estimator that may be useful worldwide
  5. Canadian specific data -
  8. Australia specific census data -
  9. South Africa specific census data -
Naming Neighborhoods
We have a separate document, Group Naming Conventions, that will help you understand the naming conventions we suggest. If you’re not sure what the neighborhoods around you are called, the links above can also be used to help you identify neighborhood names. The best name is one that identifies the neighborhood(s) included and makes it clear that your group is part of the Buy Nothing network; the exact words you use to describe your group need to make sense to the people who are part of your offline, real world community.