If you’re sick of constantly consuming, your local Buy Nothing Facebook group might seem like a breath of fresh air. The group was created as a more personal alternative, to sites like Freecycle. It now brings communities together and fights consumerism one gift at a time. One couple even used the group to get a free wedding.
You’ve probably spent time searching Freecycle or Craigslist Free for new furniture. But Buy Nothing Facebook groups have a different message. Buy Nothing was created by co-founders Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark of Bainbridge Island, Washington.
The groups are more than a site where you can just get free things, it’s a direct response to anti-consumerism. “We really needed to stop buying stuff — just buy nothing,” Clark says.
The Buy Nothing Wedding
According to The Seattle Times, Erika Dudra moved to Beacon Hill two years and didn’t know a single person in the area. She was recently separated and had a 3-month old child that she needed to feed and clothe.
That’s when she came across her local group: Buy Nothing Beacon Hill North. She offered up her couch on the page and asked for baby things from those who no longer needed them. “I have a 2-year-old now who basically cost me nothing,” she says.
Then, when she re-married this year she went back to the group for help with her wedding. For the ‘Buy Nothing Wedding’, other donated almost everything, including her dress, the cake, decorations, and flowers.
Others came forward to work as an American Sign Language interpreter for deaf family members and a wedding photographer. Dudra’s biggest expense for the wedding? $300 for the venue! Since moving to Beacon Hill, Dudra has made a lot of new friends – all through her Buy Nothing group.
A Lesson from a Himalayan Village
The inspiration comes from a village in the Himalayan Mountains. In 2007, Clark was visiting the Upper Mustang area of Nepal filming a documentary for National Geographic. She went to the village of Samdzong that doesn’t operate on currency, instead, they have a “gift economy”.
“Your money is no good there,” Clark says. The people live in sky caves and ask and receive things they need from each other. The residents keep communal goats and sheep and watch each other’s fields.
Clark took clothes with her that she could give as gifts, but she was confused when an older, childless woman asked her for some baby shoes. The villagers told Clark that it’s important that the woman has something she can give someone else. They said, it’s so “she can share with the neighbors and be tied to them.” To survive, the villagers need each other.
It All Started with a Dozen Eggs
Upon her return to America, Clark felt frustrated with Freecycle, she says, “It wasn’t ‘giving’ — it was posting what you want to get rid of.”
So, in July 2013, Rockefeller started the Buy Nothing Facebook group, and within a few hours, the group already had 300 members. The first offer was a dozen eggs from Clark’s chickens, and a neighbor who she’d never met asked for them.
Clark walked to Susan Sellen’s house with the eggs. “I’ve lived here for years and I don’t go out and talk to anybody,” Sellen says. But that all changed because of Buy Nothing. Clark and Sellen are now good friends, and often meet up to drink tea.
Connecting the Community
Different Buy Nothing groups are now bringing half a million communities together across 20 countries. And these groups aren’t just for physical objects, you can ask for people’s time, too.
In March 2014, 33-year old Kate Goldston, a long-time anorexia sufferer had just been released from a hospice. At the time, Kate weighed just 65 pounds and needed to make commitments as part of her recovery. She took to the group to ask people to play Scrabble with her.
Lots of people in her area messaged her and soon she was playing scrabble every day. “People were counting on me to show up for the game,” Goldston explains. “It wasn’t like I ever wanted to die, but it was a possibility.”
Kate attributes that first post in the Buy Nothing group as the start of her recovery. She recently posted, “I have not ‘asked’ for anything on this site for a while, although I am desperately poor and in need of probably a lot of things, I am a proud owner of something I have not had for two decades,” Goldston says. “My life.”
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