The Buy Nothing Academy: Lesson 3
How to Build Your Local Gift Economy
Lesson 3.1 – Sharing


We’ve learned that the best way to get your Buy Nothing community rolling is to start sharing! Look around at what you have to give and get creative! Consider items on your shopping list that you can ask for.
You can use posts from the Buy Nothing Project Facebook Page
to share inspiration and insights from other participants and communities. Our Instagram account also highlights inspirations and ideas from others who have experienced the joy in sharing. You can use media about the Buy Nothing Project from our In the Media page or by doing a search online. You can use videos from Buy Nothing Project’s YouTube page or search YouTube for “Buy Nothing Project. Having a feed with posts up is great for new participants to see when they first join the giving community.
After you’ve given or received a gift, share your gratitude with your community. Gratitude is the glue that makes connections stick, the glue that will build a strong web of mutual respect and care around you. Perhaps you’re grateful for a gift you received, for someone giving your old stuff a new home, or for an interaction that cheered you up – Whenever you get that grateful feeling from Buying Nothing, share this with your community. If you’d like some inspiration and some examples of community-wide gratitude games, Jennifer Lansdowne has written 30 days of Gratitude posts that you can use as a template. You’re welcome to use them as they are or remix them to spark different ideas about being grateful.
Activity 3.1
Make a list of some of the things you know you have ready to give away and go post them to your community. Or maybe you want to post this list in your community to inspire other people to post these types of things. Your list could inspire others to come up with fun things to give. If you feel you have nothing, here’s a list of some of the random, but popular, things that we often throw away or are just in abundance around us, that we see offered in Buy Nothing gift economies!

– Empty baby food jars (for canning baby food)
– Broken ceramics (for mosaics artists)
– Crayon bits (used for candle making)
– Tonight’s leftovers (some families just make too much dinner, and gift the leftovers)
– Fallen trees (everyone loves firewood)
– Foraged herbs, greens, flowers, fruit, etc.
– Half-burned candles (candle-makers love wax)
– Bubble Wrap, boxes, and packing supplies
– Bottle Caps
– Wine Corks
– Books & Magazines
– Fabric Scraps
– Kids’ outgrown clothing

Lesson 3.2 – Growing Your Community

Growing Your Community

Without community participants all those great posts you’re doing will go unseen. How do you get neighbors to join?
The answer to this is going to vary from area to area and from person to person. If you are a social person and have lots of friends and family nearby, post to your social media accounts inviting everyone to check out the new sharing community or call/email/text friends about the idea. If you’re new to the area and don’t know anyone, you’ll need to do a bit more outreach.

The best way to spread the word about something you really love is to tell other people directly. Share your joy when you’ve found a matching lid for that pot you stopped using because the lid broke, or how it makes you feel when you receive something from a stranger. Tell your friends in person or on the phone or through any online platforms you’re a part of. (Thanks to Alexa Carey for sharing some of these ideas she’s used below.)

Here’s a list of some things to try:
  • Join social media groups in the area and ask those admins if it’s okay to post about your new sharing community.
  • Advertise in local community message boards, forums, tag sale groups and swaps, churches, festival pages, government pages, parks, etc. If you do a search for your town, you will find all kinds of pages and groups devoted to your particular area.
  • Mom/parent groups can be a great way to get the word out. Kids are always needing larger size clothes or new toys.
  • Neighborhood associations or apartment complex newsletters, bulletin boards in cafes, laundromats or libraries are all great venues for spreading the word.
  • The best way is through word of mouth. When you have something great going on, people tell their friends, and their friends tell their friends. Use the challenges listed in Lesson 3.3 to spread the word.
  • Tell the community that you want to grow! In your own words, explain why you participate in your Buy Nothing community, and what you hope for it to become, with help from your neighbors in spreading the word.
  • Show the community that the Buy Nothing Project is special/different from what is already out there like the typical ‘free’ sites and Craigslist/Freecycle, because we focus on PEOPLE instead of stuff. You can post words or our videos from YouTube or our Facebook page.
It generally takes between 75-100 participants for posts to start connecting someone who wants polka dot curtains with someone who has polka dot curtains to give. Getting a new community to that number of participants can feel like it takes forever. Don’t give up! Keep posting and modeling – when someone nearby begins to post or comment, comment back, or ‘like’ the post. If there is not much activity in the community, to build it you need to become active and engage with your neighbors who are participating. As they feel your commitment to community, they will participate and help the community grow.

Activity 3.2
Which idea from the list above is how you want to grow your community? Go out and do it!
Lesson 3.3 – Creative Connection Ideas

Connect Creatively with Your Buy Nothing Community

Buy Nothing works best when there are other people to share with. Once your community has started to grow, it helps to offer some group sharing activities. Here are some time-tested Buy Nothing ways to inspire others to join you in giving, asking, and sharing gratitude.
Challenges or activities are one way to get people in the community thinking about different things they might have to give or what they can ask for. Have a look at our Creating Connections series of posts that we’ve made available for you to use, or to gather ideas if you’d like to post your own variation.
But we’re not just about giving or asking, we can also think of other creative ways to share of ourselves and our things.
  • Round Robins/Traveling Bags are popular in many neighborhoods and they can be set up in a variety of ways.
  • Lending Libraries are another way to help share our items, especially things you don’t need every day like a power washer, an iron/ironing board, tree trimmer, an extra tall ladder, etc.
  • Carpool Corner can help connect neighbors to save gas and get more done on the way to work.
  • Buy Nothing Day is an alternative to whatever day in your country that retailers encourage you to BUY, BUY, BUY. Black Friday, Boxing Day sales, and Cyber Monday sales can be special Buy Nothing Days where we each work creatively to provide No-Buy solutions within our communities. Giving Tuesday is also an opportunity for us each to remind each other that every day is a giving/asking day within a Buy Nothing community.
  • And finally, sharing gratitude is really the glue that holds us all together.
Activity 3.3
Try one of the ideas listed above, or another idea you thought up in your Buy Nothing community.