The Buy Nothing Project

Is the negativity on your Facebook news feed getting you down?

Don’t worry, I’m not writing this to convince you how social media is bad and the best thing you can to do is log off.

Instead, I would like to show one way that Facebook can be a positive tool for change in the world.

I recently became a member of the The Buy Nothing Project. It’s simple concept; join your geographical group and participate in a social media-driven gift economy. You can post anything you want to give away, lend, or share among neighbors. You can offer an item or a service you provide. You can also ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or to borrow. No selling or trading is allowed. Participants are encouraged to be creative in how they choose the recipient of a gift, instead of always giving to the first person to respond to your post.

In urban areas, groups are centered on a neighborhood. That makes it easier for moderators to ensure that guidelines are followed, and provides participants with a chance to connect with each other. Often, this is simply by learning how the recipient will use your gift. Gifts are usually left on the front porch for pickup, but once in a while the gift-giver and gift-recipient will run into each other.

Members also help each other in need: a few weeks back there was a sign-up for bringing meals to an unemployed member and her family. Frequently, recipients follow up with “gratitude posts” or pictures of how a gift has been put to good use.

We’ve benefited from the generosity of others in so many ways. Sophie needed a dress for the international day at her school. Instead of buying a one-time outfit, we were able to borrow a beautiful Indian dress. Someone took apart their deck and gave me the wood, from which I have built bird houses, a duck shelter, and raised beds. When I was home-brewing and realized that I didn’t have enough empty bottles, a quick request to the group turn out fifty in no time.

You can find more info on their website on how to get connected with your geographical group.

The only quibble I have with my group is that it could use more diversity. The overwhelming majority of posts are from women with children. The items given and requested tend to reflect this demographic, perhaps further discouraging other groups of people from joining. I don’t know if this is the case with other Buy Nothing groups, but I’ve resolved to help get more guys to join. This is not so much a flaw as simply an area for further growth.

There are so many good reasons to find your local Buy Nothing:

  • Save money
  • Get rid of stuff you don’t need quickly
  • Know who is getting what your giving
  • Form community with the people who live in your neighborhood
  • Begin detaching from our unsustainable throw-away economy.

If nothing else, it will brighten your news feed, and remind you that there is plenty of good news out there for people with eyes to see. Find you local group and join.

When was the last time you logged onto Facebook and felt uplifted and inspired to help others?