The “Buy Nothing” movement: easy on the wallet, and the environment

By Sarah Banks – 

Take a look around your home and there’s a very good chance you will find something you could live without. And there’s an even better chance that someone else in your community would benefit from having that something.

Perhaps it’s a slow cooker that you’ve only used twice in the five years you’ve owned it. Or an unopened box of Lego – your son received two of the same at his birthday this year. Maybe there’s three gallons of unopened primer sitting in your garage and you have no plans to use it.

Now think about what would happen if you offered these items at no cost to the people who live in your community. No strings attached, no money exchanged and no expectation of bartering. Bottom line, you give a gift to your neighbour.

This is the premise behind Buy Nothing, an international movement that has its very own chapter in Britannia/Westboro (serving residents of Tunney’s Pasture, Island Park, Lincoln Fields, Carlingwood, Bayshore, Westboro and Britannia).

Marieke Bergman is a teacher who has been the recipient of some useful items for her classroom. She also says it’s an ideal concept for anyone who is moving and needs to get rid of things quickly.
Marieke Bergman is a teacher who has been the recipient of some useful items for her classroom. She also says it’s an ideal concept for anyone who is moving and needs to get rid of things quickly. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
Morgan Banister says “Buy Nothing” Facebook group posts encompass a wide variety of items ranging from magazines to flatscreen TVs. Photo by Andrea Tomkins
Morgan Banister says “Buy Nothing” Facebook group posts encompass a wide variety of items ranging from magazines to flatscreen TVs.
Photo by Andrea Tomkins

Administered by Jodi McIntosh and Steph Godard, the Buy Nothing Britannia/Westboro group is hosted on Facebook (facebook.com/groups/BuyNothingWestboro) and has close to 300 members. Recent items made available have included baby formula, a coffee maker, blank art canvasses, and a dresser.

According to Steph Godard, the movement is grounded in two fundamental ideas – first, that we should do our best as a society to combat consumerism and reduce landfill by focusing on reusing and recycling. Second, and perhaps most important, is that we should connect and engage with our fellow community members in a meaningful way.

“In the past year, I’ve made so many friends and connections that I otherwise wouldn’t have, were it not for Buy Nothing,” says Godard. “At the end of the day, an exchange of free goods or services is made richer by the people I’ve met as a result.”

And yes, in case you were wondering, free services are part of the mix as well. Snow shoveling, tutoring, resume drafting and cooking are all examples of services that would be warmly welcomed on the Buy Nothing network. One member recently offered a free batch of cupcakes.

When it comes to determining just who will be the lucky recipient of a good or service, there’s no set formula but there are a few rules.  Not to be confused with a charity or community bulletin board, Buy Nothing is a “hyper-local gift economy.”

There is no buying, selling, bartering or soliciting. When a member posts a good or service, those interested are discouraged from posting sob stories of need. The decision is up to the gifter and can be as simple as a name draw or a more thoughtful process based on the posts of those who have expressed interest and shared their reasons for hoping to be the lucky recipient.

“No matter how the free good or service ends up in someone’s hands, we just hope that it is done face-to-face and connections are made,” says Godard.  “We discourage porch pick-ups because it defeats our key purpose of connecting people in a positive and giving way.”

When asked what her own personal experience with Buy Nothing has been like, Godard is effusive. “I’ve gifted and been gifted so many times. It’s been amazing. One time I gave away a breadmaker and the woman was so thrilled. She said she was going to go home and make pizza dough with it. I couldn’t use it but she definitely could. It felt great.”

Trash or treasure?

The City of Ottawa Giveaway Weekend is taking place Saturday, October 24 and Sunday, October 25. Place unwanted items out at the curb on Giveaway Weekend with a sign on it with the word “FREE.” Items could include: books, CDs, DVDs, old furniture and small appliances, kitchen gadgets, dishes, cutlery, pots and pans, unwanted gifts.  Please note, the Consumer Product Safety Bureau of Health Canada advises that used children’s items such as baby walkers, cribs, car seats, strollers, playpens, bath seats, mattresses, blinds, toys and other child-related items should not be placed at the curb for Giveaway Weekend. Make sure at the end of the day, bring any uncollected items back to your home.

 

 

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