“At the beginning a friend of mine and I said ‘we should have a group that’s not barter,’” said Darcy Lopez. “I didn’t know how to start one, and then lo and behold I heard about the Buy Nothing Project.”
The Buy Nothing Project began in Washington state in 2013, describing itself as a hyper-local gift economy. The idea struck a chord with many, and Buy Nothing groups starting appearing in more and more neighborhoods.
“Once they join the group I think they see how it’s different, and they realize it’s not just about the stuff, but it’s also a way to keep things out of the landfill,” said Lopez.
Many gifts are basic items, like clothes or toys a child may have outgrown.
“I’ve gotten some art supplies I’ve given away Plaster of Paris – just mundane things and super neat things.”
And other times, the gifts are much larger. Lopez said someone once gave away a boat.
Whatever the gift is, the idea is to share what you don’t need with someone who does.
“We’re also trying to get away from the consumerism of just going out and buying something. This way you can go to the group first to see if someone has it, because you can ask for what you need as well.”
People do ask, and often find what they are looking for right in their community. And even more than the item itself, Lopez says that people learn that they have a great community around them that wants to be kind to each other.
“I always try to tell people, it’s not about the stuff, it’s about connecting people – that’s the way I view it,” said Lopez.