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Have you ever thrown something away while simultaneously thinking “gee, I wish I knew someone I could give this to?” You now have many ‘someones’ you can give things away to. In your own community. Welcome to the Buy Nothing Project. So what is the Buy Nothing Project? The best description I’ve read is that this project is “a local giving circle where items and talents are offered for free and anyone is welcome to ask for what they need.” There are currently Buy Nothing groups in countries from Australia through to the Virgin Islands. And the Buy Nothing Project page provides clear instructions on how to start one, if there isn’t already a group in your area. As a side note, apparently North Americans are particularly enamoured of this concept, or else it started here and is only now spreading, as our groups dwarf the number of groups found in other nations.

The Buy Nothing credo goes well beyond simply gifting consumer items, into a genuine help out your neighbour philosophy

The Buy Nothing Project is made possible through the magic of closed Facebook groups. These facebook groups are set up geographically, which means it is neighbours helping neighbours, much like the early North American settlers functioned, I imagine. To join, one submits a request to join but also sends a message to the moderator explaining where they live, to confirm they fall within the geographic boundaries of the group. You can join one group only, the group where you live so you can literally “give where you live.” This is what builds community. As I only belong to my local group, I can’t say for sure, but I suspect most of them have similar rules to mine, which state “Buy Nothing: Give Freely. Share creatively. Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share among neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, no soliciting for cash. We’re an adult-only, hyper-local gift economy. We are not a charity or community bulletin board.”

The dynamics of Buy Nothing is fascinating to watch. Some people who don’t have much, also don’t have independent means of transport to pick up their ‘gifted’ items. So other members of the group will often offer to drop off or to transport the person to their item pick-up location. I’ve seen people offer a photography session, a home-cooked meal or a house-cleaning. The Buy Nothing credo goes well beyond simply gifting consumer items, into a genuine help out your neighbour philosophy. Kids’ toys are another interesting category. Often some parent will have noted their child become fascinated with a particular toy while out shopping, but can’t or doesn’t want to purchase the toy. The quest goes out into the Buy Nothing environment and almost inevitably another parent has the same or a similar toy their children have either outgrown or become tired of. Much like Toy Story 3, the toy then lives on in the care of another family.

So far, I’ve mainly been in the giving mode, as I have found in recent years that I’ve accumulated so much stuff it’s beginning to feel like a burden. Each time I give something to a neighbour who expresses sincere gratitude for the item, I feel like another weight has been lifted off my shoulders. This is my favourite frugal find of this year.