Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively.
The Buy Nothing Project began when two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA, in July, 2013. Since then, it has become a worldwide social movement, with gift economies in 44 nations. Local communities form gift economies that are complementary and parallel to local cash economies; whether people join because they’d like to quickly get rid of things that are cluttering their lives, or simply to save money by getting things for free, they quickly discover that our gift economies are not just another free recycling platform. A gift economy’s real wealth is the people involved and the web of connections that forms to support them. Time and again, members of our gift economies find themselves spending more and more time interacting in our sharing communities, finding new ways to give back to the community that has brought humor, entertainment, and yes, free stuff into their lives. The Buy Nothing Project is about setting the scarcity model of our cash economy aside in favor of creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us.
How does the Buy Nothing Project work? Using any platform they’d like, and our open source documents, people set up their own Buy Nothing Project gift economies for their own neighborhoods. We’ve also developed an app, so anyone around the world can build a gift economy around them. (The app is currently in beta.)
Many people ask, “Why did you initially use Facebook?” When this project started, Facebook was the primary free social media platform with group architecture. Our shift to an open source model opens up new possibilities, however. You can now use our tools to set up a non-commercial, non-monetized Buy Nothing Project community wherever you would like and on whatever platform you’d like. We have a volunteer support network ready to help answer your questions, too.
In April, 2020, Simon & Schuster published Liesl and Rebecca’s first book, The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan. This book is available at your local public library, and in many Buy Nothing groups. The book offers a blueprint for every person to build their own gift economy mindset, no social media required.
Buy Nothing Project rules are simple: 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. No hate speech. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, we’re strictly a gift economy.
Why the Buy Nothing Project? The Buy Nothing Project is brought to you by two friends who have worked hard to address the first of the three infamous “Rs,” Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling. Rebecca and Liesl want to address the “Reduce” part of the equation, as well as the lesser-known Rs, “Refuse” and “Rethink.”
Participating in a local Buy Nothing Project gift economy allows individuals and communities to reduce their own dependence on single-use and virgin materials by extending the life of existing items through gifting and sharing between neighbors. Rethinking consumption and refusing to buy new in favor of asking for an item from a neighbor may make an impact on the amount of goods manufactured in the first place, which in turn may put a dent in the overproduction of unnecessary goods that end up in our landfills, watersheds, and our seas. It most certainly creates connections between people who see each other in real life, not just online, leading to more robust communities that are better prepared to tackle both hard times and good by giving freely.
Sharing builds trust between neighbors, and this trust allows giving communities to grow quickly and encourages people to both give freely and ask for what they need; everything from toilet paper roll springs to rides home from the doctor; burial sites for beloved pets to freshly-baked bread and casseroles have been given freely. Participants share things mundane and meaningful in equal measure, and throughout it all connect with each other by means of the shared personal stories and chatting.
Buy Nothing Project gift economies are diverting more materials from our landfills and oceans than we can possibly quantify, as hundreds of items are re-homed each day. Along with this positive environmental impact, neighbors are getting to know and trust each other, building relationships that see them through all of life’s challenges and celebrations.
As of January, 2021 the Buy Nothing Project has at least 4 million participants in at least 44 countries, led by at least 12,000 volunteers.
We are a completely grass-roots, all-volunteer project with no funding to run this movement. The reach of this movement is all thanks to individuals who set up gift economies and serve their communities, the people who volunteer their time as mentors and guides for other group leaders, and everyone who contributes their time, expertise, and talents. We follow a true gift economy model. We thank all of you for making this collaborative project what it is.
Want to know more?
Read about our Mission and Principles, read about Racial Justice and the Buy Nothing Project, join an existing group for your neighborhood, or join the movement by starting a group in your neighborhood today! You can also read our manifesto, The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan for an action plan that works offline as well as online.