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How Millions of People Buy Nothing Every Day

The Buy Nothing Project encourages people to connect with their communities and gift and trade rather than shop.

Written by
Calin Van Paris

The most environmentally-minded thing that you, as a consumer, can do? Join a Buy Nothing group.

Yes, you read that correctly—stop buying so much. Withhold your purchasing power. Instead, take your cues from the Buy Nothing Project which, since 2013, has encouraged people to connect with their communities and gift, trade, and show appreciation.

Buy Nothing groups are trending in a major way, making it easier for people around the country to curb their want of retail therapy in favor of gifting, sharing, and trading. According to the EPA, 2018 saw 146.1 million tons of municipal solid waste (including food, clothing, and other miscellaneous materials) sent to landfill—and with trends like fast fashion and the pandemic's want of takeout containers and online shopping, that number has only increased.

So, rather than tossing an item out, why not give it away? A more sustainable lifestyle is a mere click away.

What Is Buy Nothing? The Benefits to Joining a Group

Buy Nothing is all about gift economy. Rather than investing in new items and encouraging needless production, pollution, and waste, a gift economy centers on sharing goods—the better to manage our collective addiction to stuff.

With nearly seven million users across more than 7,500 communities, the Buy Nothing movement has serious legs. Through an app and copious community-specific groups on Facebook, Buy Nothing asks users to stay hyper-local, sharing goods within small populations sometimes spanning only a few city blocks. Offerings run the gamut: Everything from food to partially used products to furniture to toys is fair game.

Aside from providing an eco-alternative to constant consumption, the approach promotes a feeling of community that can sometimes feel like a thing of the past. Trust is key here, as is transparency. But given that retail sales will amount to an estimated (and staggering) $5.23 trillion this year, and the environmental impact of all of that shopping (read: tens of thousands of tons in annual emissions and seemingly unending waste) the risks are well worth the reduction in footprint.

How to Participate in Buy Nothing Groups

Need something? Join your area Buy Nothing group and see what's available—and get to know your neighbors in the process. Jump on Facebook to locate your closest community (a simple search of "Buy Nothing Facebook" should elicit results showcasing your options), or download the app to see what's on offer.

If you'd like to champion a group of your own, the app allows you to register as a "Community Builder," which allows you the opportunity to make suggestions and help shape the future of the Buy Nothing Project. You can also take a course through the Buy Nothing Academy to master the concept of a gift economy.

And once you're in, don't forget to show your appreciation! Sending "Gratitudes" is a crucial part of the sharing-is-caring-inspired experience.