While I use our Buy Nothing group quite often and tell many people about it, I get a lot of questions from others who aren’t quite sold on the idea. Here are answers to a few of the concerns and questions about Buy Nothing groups I receive.
If you’ve been around the blog for a hot second, you know I’m a big advocate for Buy Nothing groups. Not only do they reduce waste, save money, and limit consumption, I think they also build a stronger sense of community.
Buy Nothing groups highlight common interests over which neighbors can connect. They provide opportunities to share our abundance with those in our community. And scientific evidence supports that people find joy in the act of giving.
Related Reading: Have You Joined Your Free Local Buy Nothing Group?
Despite their obvious benefits, Buy Nothing groups have their detractors and critics. I get questions from lots of people leery about the Buy Nothing process. Buy Nothing groups aren’t perfect for everyone, but I think they are pretty great for most of us and provide a ton of value toward building stronger, more resilient, and more eco-friendly communities.
Below, I’ve addressed a few questions and comments I receive that might encourage skeptics to give their Buy Nothing group a chance.
“I don’t use Buy Nothing groups because I’m not on Facebook”
Many Buy Nothing groups operate as Facebook Groups. However, you do not have to actively use Facebook socially to participate in a Buy Nothing group. Many people create a separate Facebook profile for Buy Nothing participation or create a Facebook account (if they don’t already have one) just for the Buy Nothing group without ever posting updates, family information, or even using their full name.
Further, the Buy Nothing organization is working on moving Buy Nothing groups off of Facebook and onto an independent Buy Nothing app. Some Buy Nothing groups already use the app. Check to see how your local Buy Nothing group operates.
“Isn’t Buy Nothing a hassle to use?”
I suppose this depends on the person using it, but I don’t think it has to be difficult. Finding new homes for items you no longer need takes more time than simply lugging a box of miscellaneous items to a thrift store on a quarterly basis, no matter how you dispose of them. But passing along goods through a Buy Nothing group is far more rewarding (and most of the items at thrift stores end up in the trash).
For me, I typically exchange messages through Facebook Messenger to coordinate pick up after we’ve established a connection through a post in the group. I don’t use Facebook all that often, but I don’t like sifting through notifications or checking in on old Buy Nothing posts to find out if someone responded to something I offered. Facebook Messenger is easier for me because I set it up to send me notifications, while I don’t receive notifications on the general Facebook application.
If someone expresses interest in something I am gifting, I simply leave them a comment (or Private Message them), saying something like “You’re welcome to have the [item I shared]. Please let me know when you can pick it up and I will leave it on our front porch.” After they respond, I provide our address and leave the gift out front of our house for them to collect (sometimes many hours in advance so I don’t have to worry about it later).
Especially given the social changes we’ve experienced, I rarely see or talk to people who pick up items from my house or from whom I pick up gifts. This makes it easier to pick up items without extensive schedule coordination.
“I don’t want to post every little item separately. That seems tedious.”
If you have lots of small items to share, consider posting them as a group of things. It’s helpful if the items are related in nature or serve the same person (ie. items related to a particular interest, items that serve a specific age, etc…). But even if items don’t go together, post them and specify you’d like to pass them along to one person.
The Buy Nothing principles specifically dictate that the person giving the gift can set parameters around who gets the gift and how it’s passed along. Those receiving the gifts can decide to take it or not, knowing the stipulations.
I’ve posted entire collections of children’s chapter books together and a full box of boys’ clothes all in similar sizes, noting on both occasions I wanted to give them to one person to simplify the exchange.
“People gift such odd things. That’s kind of weird.”
Buy Nothing members post a wide variety of things in the group. The organization guidelines encourage this practice by reminding members that there is no specific monetary value placed on objects and no gift is more important than another.
Some gifts offered on Buy Nothing groups are broadly considered valuable and useful, like the bounce house or slip ‘n’ slide we shared over the last couple of years.
Other people offer things like partial packages of snack packs, old hangers, and other seemingly small and random gifts. But these can be fun to try, useful to others, and perfect for repurposing projects.
A few weeks back, for example, I requested a handful of empty 2-liter soda bottles for a project we hosted at the local library. Few people request items from their neighbor’s recycling bin, but this was really useful to me. You never know what other people value.
“Don’t I have to tell strangers where I live?”
You don’t have to tell people where you live. If you’re uncomfortable sharing your location, you can always offer to meet in a public location like a coffee shop or grocery store parking lot.
If you’re gifting something from your home, I think it’s often easier to have your neighbor stop by your home to pick up the item, even in a contactless way. You don’t have to coordinate a specific meet-up time, and you don’t have to make a special trip to deliver the gift. But this is certainly a personal choice.
“I don’t want to go to someone’s home who I have never met.”
Many people hesitate to visit a home of a stranger (which I totally understand). Most Buy Nothing exchanges don’t require any in-person contact or discussion between the giver and the recipient, which hopefully quells some concern.
However, if you are picking something up from someone else’s home, you could specifically request that the person leave the item at the end of their driveway or near a shared mailbox instead of right near their front door. You could stop by to pick up the item when you’ll be with a friend or significant other as well.
While these options may not work for everyone, they’re just a couple of options that might make a Buy Nothing gift exchange easier and safer.
“Buy Nothing rules are so strict. It’s annoying, and I don’t understand the rules.”
Buy Nothing groups do have some interesting rules which I think help prevent the group from becoming a mess of self-promotion posts and advertising. However, it’s helpful to watch this Buy Nothing video to understand the rules and why they exist.
Also, ask the administrator in your group about any specific rules. They may have resources to help you stay on track and participate in a way that works for the group.
If it makes you feel any better, I violated one of the Buy Nothing rules not long after I first joined the group. Buy Nothing prohibits trading (and only allows untethered asking or gifting, no strings attached). When I saw a request for empty spice jars, I offered them up and sarcastically suggested the requestor could give me some advice about drying spices from my own garden.
The administrator in the group noted my error (this was considered a swap, and there’s no swapping allowed). She asked that I remove or amend my comment. I did, and that was it. So long as members act in good faith, there’s nothing to worry about it if you break a rule. After a bit, the rules are easy to follow and make sense.
“There’s no Buy Nothing group in my area.”
If you don’t have a local group, consider starting one. There is no cost to set one up where you live. If you want to be part of the formal Buy Nothing network, there are some required training courses for administrators. Honestly, they take a bit of time to complete. If you have the time, however, I think you’ll find it quite rewarding.
Further, find a friend or two that can help you administer the group so you don’t carry all the weight of the role. The administrator monitors the group activity to ensure that people are following the Buy Nothing guidelines to maintain the integrity and value of the group.
Do you have any other questions or concerns about Buy Nothing groups? I’d love to hear them and get more perspectives on how this works in your community.