Lesson 7

Why & How 

Lesson 7.1 – Why This Matters

Besides filling our lives with gratitude and meeting our neighbors, why do local gift economies matter?

We all need stuff to survive. That stuff has to come from somewhere. Choosing to “shop” in your Buy Nothing community, and choosing to reuse items, helps build a more sustainable human footprint on the planet. When we find ways to meet our wants and needs without buying brand new items, we reject marketing hype and the idea that everything has to be new or pristine. We also reject the idea that our worth is based on how new and pristine our belongings are. We learn more about making do, mending, borrowing and sharing. If you’re up for diving deeper into these ideas, we invite you to check out the BuyNothing7 Challenge

Part of this reuse of items is learning how to make items last as long as possible. As cheap goods became available with the rise of industrialization, many people lost the idea that skills of repair or mending were necessary. Coupled with planned obsolescence, where companies designed items not to last so that consumers would need to buy more items, many of the things we now buy break within a few years, or even months. Fixing them can be tricky if the parts weren’t made to last. If we take on the task of learning how to repair and mend, for many of us this means learning new skills. This passing of knowledge is another gift that you can give or ask for in your Buy Nothing communities.

As we are not spending money on purchasing things or repairing broken items that we have, we get to choose how to invest in ourselves and our communities in other ways. Want to see what participants of Buy Nothing communities did with the money they felt they saved through their gift economy participation? Check out the Buy Nothing Project Research Initiative. Can you see yourself investing in savings, in experiences, in small local companies, or in raising financial and generational wealth for your family?

Of the things that we do purchase, many are bought online from large corporations that take money out of our communities and away from local small businesses. Lower cost is often a factor in buying online, but there is a higher cost to our planet and communities from the production of low cost items that is hidden. The Story of Stuff has a video explaining these hidden costs.

Shipping items from around the world straight to our doors results in pollution from fossil fuels and a high energy cost for each individual item. Walking, biking, or even driving 5-10 minutes to pick up a preloved item from your neighbor does not significantly increase pollution. Using a pre-used item from your local area keeps more items from being made and shipped from the other side of the world, reducing pollution costs there as well.  Environmental pollution also disproportionately affects communities of color, so environmental justice is social justice.

Sharing and reusing items helps us cut down on the production of new stuff. One of the most common materials used to produce items of all kinds is plastic. It’s hard to get away from plastic even if you want to, and the negative costs of plastic include: the extraction of fossil fuels to make the plastic pellets that are the feed-stock for all plastic items on the planet, the, pollution caused  to produce plastics, the pollution that comes from  incinerating it, and the fact that plastics never go away. Plastics slowly photodegrade into smaller and smaller pieces until they outnumber the zooplankton in our seas and are consumed by aquatic life. That single-use ketchup packet that was so handy when getting your fast food fries will take hundreds of years to break down into micro plastics and will never actually disappear from our soils, watersheds, and oceans. Check out the Story of Plastic, animated video, for more details. 

Try one of these challenge ideas on for a week, two weeks, or a month and see what mindset changes they bring to your life:

  • Buy nothing but essentials in the BuyNothing7 Challenge
  • Wear the Same Clothes for 100 Days Challenge
  • Back to School Supply Challenge
  • Mend Your Clothes Challenge
  • Repair Your Stuff Challenge 
  • Wait a Week Before Buying Challenge
  • 10 Day Give Away Challenge


Activity 7.1

Pick one challenge from the ideas listed above and try it on for a week or a month. Try doing the challenge with a friend or your community. 

Lesson 7.2 – Let’s Make it Happen

Thank you for taking this online course to learn more about gift economies through the Buy Nothing Project lens. Where you go from here is up to you, but we hope to see you fostering the sharing that is endemic to community-building inside a local gift economy near you, no matter what form or shape it comes in. Here are a few of our favorites:

Offline Giving Opportunities

Giving and sharing has always happened between friends or through existing groups of people naturally. If you’re looking for more ways to expand this idea, check out The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan. Other gift economy ideas include 

BuyNothing App

If you want to participate in a personalized gift economy model, we would love to have you join us in the BuyNothing app. Beta release in selected communities will start in May of 2021 with a global release to follow, hopefully by August of 2021. To sign up for the waitlist and get more information about the app, go to www.buynothingapp.com

Other Buy Nothing Communities

You can find a list of Buy Nothing communities around the world, on a variety of platforms, on our website’s Join Buy Nothing page. You can also set up your own Buy Nothing community anywhere you’d like, online or offline. Our Buy Nothing on Social Media page is a mini how-to with foundational documents for setting up your group on Facebook or other platforms. We have a number of freely-given resources to help you with this through our Freesources, available on our website. Many of these Freesources are available in multiple languages. The Buy Nothing Documents – All Languages lists all the foundational documents we have available to use when setting up a community. Members of the Development and Equity Team have created a resource, Equity Resources for Development, to help if you are building a community with physical boundaries. 

For Everyone

As you participate in your local gift economy, we hope you remember the ideas presented here. If you have questions about the Buy Nothing Project mission or things that you are seeing in your community that don’t fit with what you think a gift economy should look like, please use the Buy Nothing Project website to find answers.

There are so many ways for creating sharing communities. We are excited to see all the different ideas that come when we work together to give, ask and share our gratitude. 


© 2021 Liesl Clark, Rebecca Rockefeller, and Jennifer Lansdowne on behalf of the Buy Nothing Project. All Rights Reserved.

25 thoughts

  1. This training has been informative on so many levels. It’s easy to get sidetracked with links but each one teaches something I didn’t know or recognize before. I’m looking forward to this venture!

  2. These training lessons have sparked so many ideas and I am excited to try all those in staggered manner from this summer till year end. Extremely informative and helpful!!

  3. I love how open to all and respect while gifting is the on going theme. Thank you for an informative training

  4. I hadn’t realized that my life was already such a giving caring life. Thabk you for validating my sstyle of living and giving.

  5. I would find it very helpful to have the links take you to a new tab rather than direct you away from what you are reading. It is much easier to navigate than constantly going back and forth and you can’t save to read later.

  6. Thank you! This course was very informative on so many levels. I was focused more on the “environmental” aspect of Buy Nothing, but now I really appreciate its social aspects as well.

  7. As someone who grew up in an island, we are all about family. As a military family, I’ve seen and participated in so many programs similar to Buy Nothing Group/Community. Moving to keystone state during the pandemic is the first time I have heard and participated with an actual Buy Nothing Group. It has been an amazing experience! This training course was very informative and I’m hoping that I can bring the sense of family in my community by bringing neighbors together.

  8. I really enjoyed the lessons! It was very informative! I was already hooked on the buy nothing aspect but now I am even more! Looking forward to the adventure! Nathalie

  9. I’m so glad this is a reference to always turn to. I hadn’t considered how equity was demonstrated. Thank you!

  10. This training has been super helpful and has some great ideas for how to be more involved in the community and how to make more connections within the community!

  11. Thank you for more tools to help out our community.
    Looking forward to BNG to get even more momentum. 🙏

  12. Thank you 😊
    Love these resources, links and so much great info to start a new group soon!

  13. This training is filled with great information about why, how, and responsibilities. Great! Way to help leaders guide and promote best practices

  14. Thank you very much for the Training. I am very excited about this and love the ways it can benefit all communities in my area!

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