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Natural Awakenings National

Buy Nothing: Neighborly Groups Share More and Waste Less

Buy Nothing logo

Consider these facts:

The average American creates almost five pounds of solid waste per day, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Only 26 percent of Americans know most of their neighbors.

Americans, with 4 percent of the world’s children, throw away 40 percent of the world’s toys.

Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, neighbors on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, realized there was a simple way to change these trends. They created the first local Buy Nothing group in 2013, which has grown to 4 million members in 44 countries. In 2020, Clark and Rockefeller co-authored The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More, and Living Generously. 

Give or Get Goods 

People can join a local Buy Nothing group through Facebook. The groups provide a free platform to give, ask, borrow and lend items. It’s also a place to thank others in the community. 

Just about any item or service can be exchanged, as long as it’s legal. Food is commonly shared among group members. Clothing, toys and equipment for children are popular, too. Gifts of self, including talent and time, are also allowed. For example, members can offer to spend time with elderly neighbors or do yard work for them. 

As the name implies, nothing may be bought or sold in the group. Once a group gets too big, usually more than 1,000 or 1,500 members, it is split into smaller neighborhood groups. People can only belong to one Buy Nothing group. 

In Good Fun

Giving an item away to the first person that replies to a post is discouraged. Buy Nothing administrators ask givers to keep a post active long enough for many members of the group to see it and state their interest. The giver is also encouraged to be creative in how they select the person that receives the item or service when multiple people are interested. Popular methods include asking people to post cute pet photos or share a joke. These threads enhance the amiable nature of the groups.

Exchanging items through a Buy Nothing group results in neighbors getting to know each other, diverts tons of discarded items from landfills and decreases pollution of waterways.

Find a local Buy Nothing group, or see the app.

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