Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller founded the Buy Nothing Project in 2013 in Bainbridge Island, Washington. The underlying principal is that through creating a network of neighbors who truly connect and build trust with one another the social fabric of the community will become stronger. Integrity, honesty, inclusivity and civility are central; the true wealth is valued in the human connections that are made.
Within five years, the founders' one little gifting economy has turned into a worldwide network. It spans six continents, 30 countries and 3,500 Facebook groups with over 750,000 members, and it is rapidly growing. In Los Angeles County, we currently have 61 active groups with anywhere from 20 to over 1,000 members each. (You can look for your hyper-local group here.)
As a Regional Team Member, I have the honor of gently coaching local admins throughout L.A.; I guide them on how to build their networks, engage their members and help them create a space where everything is ‘freely given’ so that neighbors will trust in the abundance and open up. (By contrast, people in a scarcity model tend to be afraid to ask for things.)
How is this different from other “free” sites you ask? It’s vastly different in that the focus is on creating a connection between real-life neighbors. It’s not about the “stuff.” Physical gifts can be the catalyst for neighbors to meet and connect, however the Gifts of Time, Gifts of Self and Gifts of Talent are really where the magic happens.
These kinds of gifts bring neighbors closer; they spend time together, help one another, learn a new skill or share in a talent for any cause that might benefit another member. Whether it’s sharing in time over a cup of tea or on a playground, or offering to help an elderly neighbor screw in a light bulb, these gifts are what truly weave the community together. Home groups even have extensive Lending Libraries where a world of resources like gardening tools, party dishes, decorations, carpet cleaners and saws can be shared amongst our little network.
In my little hyper-local group called Altadena (West), which opened in November 2016, we now have 814 members. I was motivated to volunteer and build my group because I was doing a Zero Waste Year and Buy Nothing Year simultaneously in 2017. I was able to do a huge clean out and gift lots of things to my neighbors while at the same time being invited to spend time with them as well. As an example, I was gifted everything from clothes, to kitchen ware, furniture and a washer and dryer.
What I didn’t know was that by sharing in the gift of time with a couple of my neighbors I was also going to meet my fiancé and find our first home together.