Instead of running to the store or ordering from Amazon when you need something, you could be getting it from your neighbors for free – no strings attached, no catch. That’s the beauty of the Buy Nothing Project, an international network of hyper-local “gift economy” communities with more than 4 million participants in at least 44 countries. The name “Buy Nothing” might sound like some kind of strict ultra-frugal spending diet, but it’s actually a great way to free yourself from unnecessary consumerism, declutter your house, and connect with your community.
Founded in 2013 on Bainbridge Island in Washington, U.S. by Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, the Buy Nothing Project began as a simple way to connect neighbors who wanted to lend or give away items they didn’t need or wanted to share. As the idea began to spread, volunteer-run groups popped up all over, run according to a few universal rules: just freely give stuff away within your immediate neighborhood, with no buying, selling, or bartering involved. There’s no expectation that you provide something in return. Ideally, members of the groups are able to find new homes for items instead of throwing them away or donating them to Goodwill to be resold.
What kind of stuff can you gift or receive via Buy Nothing? Almost anything, as long as it’s legal. Commonly gifted items include furniture, houseplants, clothing, baby supplies, pet supplies, tools, kitchen items, and books. In some communities, certain items are passed around again and again, like decor for a child’s birthday party. Posting an item on your local Buy Nothing platform is also a great way to turn your trash into someone else’s treasure. You never know who might be looking for a bunch of old magazines for collages, a busted vacuum to harvest parts from, broken pottery for mosaics, or worn-out sheets as drop cloths. Items that have seen better days are okay to post as long as you’re up front about their condition.
Need something in particular? You can also post an “ask,” and more than likely, someone in your group will be able to provide the item in question. No need to offer anything in return. You can just say thanks, or show your gratitude by posting a photo of the item in use. You might be surprised just how generous members of Buy Nothing groups can be, offering high dollar items like televisions or even their time and skills. Most groups either gift items with a first-come, first-serve policy, or choose a random number.
Getting stuff for free is awesome, and movements like Buy Nothing can help us all produce a lot less waste. But honestly, the best part of joining your local Buy Nothing group is the insight it will give you into your community, and the connections it’ll allow you to make. Ready to find your local Buy Nothing group? Head to the website to find the closest group to your home. Most Buy Nothing groups are currently hosted on Facebook, but Rockefeller and Clark are currently working on a Buy Nothing app, so soon you won’t need any kind of social media account to join. And if there’s no existing group in your neighborhood, you can always start your own!