The Buy Nothing Project

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. Introducing, The Buy Nothing Project!

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

The gifts involved are goods of all kinds and services, too.

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 at Trash Backwards

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Categories: Reduce Your Use, Think About It, Trash Philanthropy, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff

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27 Comments on “The Buy Nothing Project”

  1. July 31, 2013 at 12:47 am #

    In the Netherlands there are facebook pages called “GiveAwayCorner-123″ where 123 stand for the phone are number. The same rules apply there, give for free, ask for free.

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      The Netherlands is lightyears ahead of us here in terms of gifting. If you think there’s room for yet another giving group, do let us know and we could try our experiment out in your home town.
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

  2. July 31, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    I wish we lived near! I would love to be a part of this lifestyle!!

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      We can always help you set one up right in your home town!
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

  3. July 31, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    This sounds a lot like Freecycle but I like how much more open this is. I’d love to start this in New Orleans!

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Hi Lelynde. I’d love to help you start a Buy Nothing group in New Orleans. I’ll send you a note via email and we can go from there. Kindest regards!

  4. Eileen
    July 31, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    I am in PA south central our barter groups are very sporadic and limited , need to get some food and service swapping too –we do have a freecycle cafe group but I think money is involved any help would be appreciated. Thanks Eileen

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:47 am #

      Hi Eileen. If you’re interested in starting a Buy Nothing group in your area, do let me know and I can contact you via email to get you set up. Thanks for your interest!
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

  5. July 31, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Fantastic! I am reading “Affluenza” right now a great book about our over consumption of stuff. I love this idea and happy to hear about the success with this venture.

  6. July 31, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    I would love to start this in Vancouver, WA!

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      Hi Kathi. That’s great! I’ll send you a note via email when I have a moment to get things rolling if you’re still interested.
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

    • Lauren Drew
      July 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      Hi Kathi! I live in Vancouver too, so let’s see what we can do.

    • August 17, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

      I’m in Vancouver, WA too ~ love to help get this started with you!

  7. July 31, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    This is a fantastic idea! Is the group for island residents only?

    Thanks!

    • July 31, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      Hi Catrice. Our Buy Nothing Bainbridge group includes people from neighboring towns. But we also have set up a Buy Nothing group that includes nearby Indianola/Kingston/Suquamish. If you’re from elsewhere, we have groups starting up all over the country. If you’re interested in starting one in your area, let us know and we’ll get things going.
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

  8. July 31, 2013 at 11:52 am #

    Have you heard of a Kirkland or Eastside group? If not, I’d love to start one! (And I’d love your learned advice in doing it…)

    • July 31, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Devon. Kirkland or Eastside would be perfect for a Buy Nothing Group. I’ll be in touch soon to set one up with you.
      – Liesl at Trash Backwards

  9. July 31, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Buy Nothing is something I’d like to see taking off in my area – but I don’t have time to become the “point-person” of a new program. I’m wondering how & where the exchanges happen – for example: Does there need to be a central point where all the sharing is going on? Do people drop off what they want to share, creating accumulation points with “stuff”? In a future post, I’d love to learn more about what the core elements are, to get a Buy Nothing group running effectively… whatever you think would help propagate this GREAT idea. Hat’s off to you & Rebecca!!

    • July 31, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

      Hi Christy! Good questions. We’re just about to launch our BuyNothingProject.org website where you’ll find many of your questions answered. But let me take a moment to explain. To be an administrator of a Buy Nothing group doesn’t take much time. It involves approving people as members to your Facebook group. And Rebecca and I would be co-admins with each region signed up, so we can do some of the heavy lifting.

      As for where the gifting happens, it happens right on your front porch or your neighbors. It’s like Freecycle or Craigslist but is much more transparent, peeling back a layer of privacy so people can comment on each item on the group page and share information. You then can message your address privately to the person you’re giving your item to (or receiving) and then you meet up at your designated home or other location. It’s pretty simple. You can also choose a central location and time for people to meet up and gift their items, if that’s preferred. Each region can choose what works best, but so far the one to one connections have been going on here and often people pick up items for friends to save on fuel and carbon footprint. We’re exploring having set drop off points around the island to minimize driving time for some of us, but often I want to make the personal connection with people and I do love having them come to see me here at home!

  10. July 31, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

    I would love to learn more on how to set this up in my hometown. btw, I knew we had many of the same concerns and interests but community is another we share.

    • August 2, 2013 at 5:19 am #

      Hi Lois. I’m so glad you’re interested in trying this experiment in your community. I’ll be in touch soon to start the process of starting a group with you. All the best, Liesl.

  11. August 1, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

    This is so exciting! I would love start a buynothing division in my community. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THE IDEA AND INSPIRATION! How do I get started?

    • August 2, 2013 at 5:13 am #

      Hi Farrah. Thanks for your interest in starting a Buy Nothing group in your area. I’ll be in touch with you shortly via email to start the process.
      – Liesl

  12. Elizabeth
    December 1, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    I lived on Bainbridge Island and love the community. Now I live in Denver and it is not the same. I would love to start a buy nothing group here and would love some help getting started.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Friday Faves, Is it REALLY August? | Living Simply Free - August 1, 2013

    […] and build strong community ties?  Liesl shares the story of their community sharing project, called The Buy Nothing Project.  Forget the big box store learn how to trade and share with those living nearby, it’s cheap […]

  2. An Interesting Idea | Northwest Photographer - August 23, 2013

    […] http://blog.trashbackwards.com/2013/07/30/the-buy-nothing-project/ […]

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