Have you ever wished that you could live in a society that was less concerned with consumption and more concerned with caring for its members? The internet has definitely made the world feel smaller and more connected, but there’s also a certain level of disconnect from your local community, too. It’s often easier to just buy what you want from Amazon and have it shipped to your house instead of asking someone in your neighborhood to trade or borrow.
While there’s no chance of us moving away from a capitalist society, there are thousands of people across the globe who have decided to be the change they want to see in the world. Instead of scouring stores and websites for the best deals, they’re turning to online groups for their local communities and asking their neighbors for the things that they need or want.
This concept is called a “gift economy,” and it’s the basis of what’s known as the Buy Nothing Project.
Instead of scouring stores and websites, people are turning to online groups and asking their neighbors for the things that they need or want.
About the Buy Nothing Project
This project was started in 2013 by two women who wanted to focus their energies on improving their local communities by reducing mass consumption, waste, and overall spending. They don’t specifically criticize consumerism (we all need to shop sometimes!), but they do focus heavily on recycling, gifting, and simply asking for what you need instead of buying everything. What began as a small citizen science project has now taken on a life of its own.
There are communities across all of North America, South America, Australia, and Europe, and there are also communities sprinkled throughout parts of Africa, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. When I said this was a global movement, I really meant it!
The general idea behind Buy Nothing groups is simple: waste less, save more, connect with other people in your community. People are encouraged to only join the one Buy Nothing group that’s closest to where they live because this is the best way to build up the community as a whole. When you’re gifting items to neighbors and receiving things from others who live close by, you’re connecting on a deeper level and strengthening your local relationships. (You’re also saving money and trips to Goodwill! Win-win.)
The Buy Nothing Basics
The good news is that you can find your local Buy Nothing group (which is usually a Facebook group) via the Buy Nothing Project website. I live in a pretty small town, so I was shocked to find out that we have a group!
There are a few basic rules that I’ve read, and they seem to be important parts of the Buy Nothing group mentality:
- Ask for anything you need.
- Offer anything you don’t need.
- Lend as often as you borrow.
- Be kind and gracious to everyone in the community.
Easy, right? I’ve read that specific groups might modify their exact rules to suit the needs of their communities, but those are the general tenets. There’s no trading, selling, or bartering allowed. In most cases, you’re also not supposed to share deals you’ve seen for items that have been requested. Since the entire purpose of the project is to “buy nothing,” that makes sense.
Another thing that I think is interesting and endearing is what the project refers to as “gifts of self.” Not only are you allowed to ask for material goods that you might need (food, baby clothes, spare tools, etc.), but you can also ask for and offer your time and talents. For instance, you could ask for help filing your taxes or offer to babysit so parents can have a little bit of peace in their day. As long as it’s legal to request or offer, your imagination is the limit.
There’s No Community Near Me!
If you happen to live somewhere that doesn’t have a local Buy Nothing group, you can start your own! As of now, the groups all exist through Facebook, and the project encourages you to start your own Buy Nothing community if one doesn’t already exist.
They have tons of helpful tips about how to go about starting your own Buy Nothing group page, so you can check their website for specifics if you’re interested!
They have a simple form for you to fill out, and all of their resources are under a Creative Commons license, which means that you can use them for free to create a local group that follows their community standards.
This could be a great volunteer project to become a part of if you find yourself with a lot of free time, especially during the pandemic.
Let’s Talk About It
I still don’t know all of the intricacies of Buy Nothing communities, but the idea is so interesting to me! What do you think? Let me know in the comments!