In an age where economic sustainability and eliminating consumer waste have become vital goals, we ask ourselves, what is the most effective way to reuse clutter in a way that will benefit everyone? How can we create a sustainable environment that is resourceful and waste-efficient?
But then ask yourselves this: what if there was a community where you could offload the clutter in your room AND make sure it’s being used sustainably? What if this could also be a community you could depend on to borrow a cup of sugar or a lawn mower? It’s called your local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group!
What is Buy Nothing?
The Buy Nothing Project is a network of communities built on the idea of a gift economy where individuals can lend time, services, or gifts with the benefit of helping a nearby friend in the community. These are usually Facebook groups that you can join! In the Buy Nothing community, all items are of equal value without the ideas of returning, bartering, selling, or first-come-first-serve. The idea is for all of the needs within the community to be fulfilled without creating the anxiety of having to get to the good items first before others. After all, Buy Nothing is a community creating the next-door neighbor interaction for a wider audience.
The social movement aims to reduce waste and encourage economic sustainability by passing off objects or services to others in need of them. Items exchanged in the communities range from furniture to food, and can be anything from canned food and thrifted baby clothes to something as strange as a half-used bottle of hair dye. In these hyper-local groups, everything can be given and put to use by others.
Buy Nothing was created in 2013 by Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark in Bainbridge Island, Washington with “Give Where You Live” as its founding principle. For the co-founders, creating a community that could reduce environmental impact was essential. However, the added touch of the small-social network feel has become a nurturing factor during these times of isolation and anxiety.
During the pandemic, the number of users skyrocketed after many workers were laid off, and were finding ways to save money. More people joined the platform each month due to job loss, the rising cost of living expenses, and the overall effects of inflation. It’s about more than just helping your neighbors; this social platform is designed to create interactions between users and help them feel more inclusive in their local community.
The Buy Nothing project has become an international endeavor, extending to other platforms, most notably Facebook, with over 4.25 million users in over 44 countries. Buy Nothing focuses on nurturing abundance and social wealth while promoting integrity, inclusivity, and health.
A Giving Community
Leah Funk has been a member of the Buy Nothing Project since 2020, and like many other active users, she joined the gifting community to cut down on expenses. Some of the gifts she received this summer were a set of summer clothes for her eldest child and a baby bike carrier for her one-year-old. This really helped scale down her clothing budget!
“Basic items like bread, eggs, milk, and diapers — there’s a lot of people struggling out there, and our group can help bridge the gap with that,” she said. In the last six months, there has been an increase in requests for food and household items among Buy Nothing groups as more people began to see the community as a social-economic safety net that looks out for each other during these tough times.
Like Leah, another user, Ramona Monteros from Los Angeles, joined her local Buy Nothing group back in 2018 after being drawn to the idea of giving away items for free without having to deal with the hassles of selling. Eventually, she became the administrator. By 2020, the community had grown to nearly 400 members. When the pandemic hit, it was even more important to keep the community running as people faced unstable financial conditions where food and other necessities soared.
How is Buy Nothing Different from Goodwill or Craigslist?
Buy Nothing communities are geographically limited to as many as a couple of city blocks with users only allowed to join one community simultaneously. This creates a safe close-knit trading post for active groups to meet their neighbors and foster the community feel lacking in other gift-exchange circles.
Give. Ask. Gratitude.
The easiest thing about the Buy Nothing project is how easy the group works: ask for services or items you need or keep, provide items someone else could use, and share the love! The community has a pay-it-forward mentality that reduces spending and carbon footprint. Now with the Buy Nothing app available on the App Store, you can give away those clothes tucked in the attic (or that old wooden chair you couldn’t bear to throw away ) in an instant!
How to Find a Buy Nothing Group On Facebook
To find a Buy Nothing group near you, you’ll want to log into your Facebook first. Then, you can use the Facebook search bar to type the name of your neighborhood and street. Alternatively, you can go to The Buy Nothing Project’s main website, which has a list of every active group around the world.
From there, all you have to do is click “Join Group” and answer the following questions:
- What are two cross streets near your home?
- Are you already part of a Buy Nothing group?
- Are you at least 21 years old?
REMEMBER: Buy Nothing prohibits the bartering, selling, trading, or marketing of goods and services. After all, the purpose is to give freely as much as receiving and to build community trust.
How Do I Start a Buy Nothing Group On The App?
For those who feel that access to Facebook may not be the most ideal or convenient, Buy Nothing released their platform on the App Store and is more suited for local sharing. Here’s what to do to get started:
- Download the Buy Nothing app on the App Store
- Register as a Community Builder: Make sure to use the same email used to create your app account so your profile can be flagged as a “community helper.”
- Take the BN Academy Lessons.
These optional courses are highly recommended for new administrators and prepare them for the duties of overseeing the local gift economy. If you want to start your own Buy Nothing group, be aware of the time commitment as it requires as much as an hour a day to regulate the group.
Because Buy Nothing encourages gift-givers to wait and see how many individuals need their box of cereal or set of mugs instead of serving the first available user, some people feel as though they are competing against others over a potential item based on their degree of necessity, meaning you may not always get the items or services you need if someone else needs it more.
However, this is the beauty of it too—after all, this is a hyper-local group that helps one another and prioritizes the people who need help the most. It offers a small-town community feel that is rewarding and sustainable where you know your old items will directly benefit someone else. As we continue to move around in a time of soaring inflation, the gift-economy concept has become more popular as more and more users are joining Buy Nothing groups every day.
Talk about one’s trash becoming another one’s treasure!