I am so proud of myself and my entire extended family. This holiday, we really embraced sustainability in our giving. My daughter received some of her cousin’s favorite board books that he has long since grown out of. My partner and I received the hiking-baby-carrier backpack that he had also grown out of. My cousin wrapped our gifts in old maps from her partner’s ranger job. All of the gifts that I gave were second-hand from my community.
That community is what I want to talk about today. Buy Nothing is not a new movement, but it is a very important one that is gaining speed. It began in the US and is active in many countries around the world.
Its main tenants are :
- Hyperlocality: groups are arranged such that no one should have to travel too far to pick up/drop off items. Not only is this good for the carbon footprint, but it has really helped me to get to know my neighbors and build lasting friendships.
- No money is exchanged for any reason or in any way – the members only gift of their own abundance and ask only for what they need. Nothing new needs to be created or sold, and things that gifters do not need anymore are given new life.
- Inclusion and Equity – everyone is welcome, and they can participate as they can. No minimum gifts, no maximum to receive. You can regift anything that you do not need any longer, for any reason.
I first heard about Buy Nothing in the San Francisco Bay Area after I got pregnant in mid-2020. A friend gifted me a body pillow for sleeping and said that she had been seeing a lot of pregnancy and baby stuff on this group on Facebook. I was immediately hooked. Buy Nothing groups are organized in Facebook groups (and very recently launched an app for those of us who are excited about spending very little time on Facebook) based on neighborhoods and cross streets. As Facebook groups grow (and they are growing fast!) volunteer admin split groups into smaller sections, to preserve the community feel and hyperlocality of the group. My city currently has 7 smaller groups, and they are talking about creating a couple more.
I love that I can live in alignment with some of my most strongly held values and beliefs, and provide for my family in a meaningful way. Most of the baby gear that we have currently has been sourced from our Buy Nothing community, and much of what we have outgrown has gone back out (aside from what we’ll need for baby #2, of course). I love not feeling attached to onesies simply because I spent $12 on them. Someone else did, and I was able to enjoy it, and now someone else can continue to enjoy it, instead of it sitting in a box for a long time. We’ve given away some of our old craft supplies, assorted spare sheets, blankets and clothing, dishes, furniture and so much else. Most of the things were things we didn’t even realize we still had.
The community and sense of belonging that I feel from this little group is so strong and absolutely permanent at this point, and it has really changed how I feel about the things in my life. I have sent out so many items that I haven’t used in so very long, and have really welcomed in more space in my home – at least briefly, as it quickly shifted toward baby space. My partner and I have been able to let go of the items of our past in order to make space for the present that we are building, and the futures that we want to move toward. I have also been able to come into myself as a leader, as I have joined the admin team of the group. I love helping people get to know their neighbors and let go of the things that could be more useful for other people. And not only my leadership capacities, but I’ve also really grown my capacity for outwardly loving and showing my values around sustainability. A person can be as sustainable as they can be, but it can be so much more powerful when it’s done in cooperation with others.
What sustainable habits have you adopted recently? What other doors have opened up for you because of them?