The Buy Nothing Project (BNP) is a global project to create hyper-local gift economies via Facebook Groups, where all items and services are gifted freely, with no buying, selling, trading, exchanging money, advertising, etc.
It’s very different from local yardsale groups and other free stuff groups in some key ways I’ll discuss in my own terms here, but ideally at least read the Missions and Principles and the Fine Print pages before joining a group. Some people are surprised or even annoyed by the peculiar points BNP is strict on, but I promise once you try it and get a feel for it, you’ll understand exactly why those rules make BNP groups so special and distinct from other market/economy groups. They’ve helped me find a lot of amazing stuff me or my family needed, and I’ve been able to give some helpful things to people in my community.
You can only be in one BNP group, and you have to live in its borders. (Though groups occasionally overlap, and you may have your choice if you’re in the overlapped area.) This means if you move to a different area, you’ll have to leave your old BNP group and join the new one in your area. If there isn’t one in your area, you can apply to start one, and either admin it yourself or possible a regional admin will.Why only one group?: Hyperlocality fits two important goals: Keeping it close so people without reliable personal transportation can participate, and keeping it close so you’re connecting with actual neighbors.Hyperlocal means keeping the groups as close-together as possible while still hopefully being big enough to be active. In a sparser rural area, a Buy Nothing group may cover a few towns, but in a dense city, the group may be only 5 minutes in any direction in a small neighborhood.
No buying, selling, trading, advertising, money exchanging, or outside referrals. Although you can choose who to gift to, and those who are receiving gifts are to disclose if they intend to resell it or use it for a third party (someone outside the group or another agency, like a local church, orphanage, community group or charity,) all giving is done freely and without thought of return.No outside referrals keeps it between local people. You can only post from your personal account, not from an agency/business, although you can totally use gifts for your agency or business IF you disclose that when requesting something. It also keeps things within the group and prevents conflicts of interest from outside businesses and agencies.For example, if someone asks where to find wood pallets, you can say “I know where to get some for you. If you want me to grab some for you, message me and you can pick them up from my place.” You can’t, however, say “Lowes sells them,” or even “George’s Farm sets them for free outside on Route 2.” This may seem really strange at first, but you’ll realize how it keeps the group within its original mission. And between you and me, no one can stop you from telling your newfound connection about the pallets by George’s Farm after the first time you meet up. Just keep in mind we’re trying to grow the group and community, not land all the best free stuff.
The point isn’t about stuff. What?! But look at all this nice free stuff! And we’re helping people!Helping people is a huge part of the goal, but most of all it is making genuine human connections with other locals. This is why ‘gratitude posts’ and comments are allowed and encouraged, and why discussion and gifting items in person is too. It’s hoped that, on the backdrop of gifting and receiving helpful gifts and services, that we make real connections with the people that live around us. If it sounds corny, just give it a try and you’ll be amazed.
There’s a lot more little rules and guidelines and fine print, but those are three of the biggest one that can take a moment to get used to. Once again, check out the Missions and Principles and the Fine Print pages on the BNP site. It’s really not as complicated as it seems, and your local admin will be glad to help you with the rules if you have any questions or confusion. Click here to find a local group near you or start one today!
Last word and beyond Buy Nothing
Although Buy Nothing Project is designed for Facebook Groups in particular, you can easily utilize its purpose and ideals (without stealing its name, branding or literature) to create similar gift economies on other platforms, and I’m sure it was the creators’ purpose to inspire such proliferation of gift economies elsewhere.
It is part of what inspired me to offer my ebooks wholly for free. If I could offer them in paper form for free too, that would be even better. But the point of Buy Nothing and other gift economies is you give what you can out of the abundance of your heart, without thought of reward or return.