How to Freecycle with Your Neighbors via the ‘Buy Nothing Project’

There’s a growing community around the world who are more conscious about utilizing the planet’s finite natural resources, creating less waste, and ultimately, being more neighborly.

a pin with text overlay: a guide to the buy nothing project and how to share with your neighbors

These people have connected with one another through the Buy Nothing Project.

When I found out about the project, I was so excited about the concept. Finally, I’ve found another part of my tribe. This project operates internationally through Facebook groups.

You first find your local group based on where you live so you can literally “give where you live”.

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How It Works

It’s really simple to get started participating in your local ‘Buy Nothing’ community.

Once you request access and are accepted to the appropriate local Facebook group, you are a member and can start sharing and receiving.

Common Nomenclature

When you have something to offer, say a dog crate that you’re not using anymore and is just gathering dust in your closet, you can write:

GIFT: [item name], [short item description], pick-up by [cross-streets or close-by retail establishment] + any other applicable descriptions

And attach a photo to go along with your post.

For example:

GIFT: large dog crate, measures 24L x 18W x 19H inches, pick-up near Olympic & Mercer, priority to whoever can come to pick up the soonest

If you need something that your neighbors might have, you can write:

ASK: [item name] + totally optional, but I’ve found it useful to include some personal thoughts on why you’re looking for one.

For example:

ASK: squatty potty – anyone have one that they’re not using? Heard that it’s really good for the colon and would love to try it out!

Super simple, right?

Once you understand how the group works, be sure to talk it up to your fellow neighbors.

These peer sharing groups work best when its members are active and engaged.

My Personal Experience

I’m living in a dense city right now so the group that I’m in has around 2,000 members and averages 30-50 posts per week.

Prior to this, I lived in the suburbs and the group had around 150 members and averaged 5 posts per week.

So some groups (like the one I’m in now) are AMAZING.

And some groups still need a bit more development.

What I really like about the Buy Nothing Project is that the giver (the person offering the item) is free to choose the recipient however they see fit.

The only rule is that no money can change hands because it’s a buy nothing group after all!

How I Learned About the Buy Nothing Project

I’ve moved around a lot due to my work and it’s brought me cross-Atlantic, and cross-country. With each move, I’ve had to critically evaluate all my belongings and run and cost-benefit analysis.

Beyond questions about visas, dealing with logistics, and the general stress of planning for the move, I’ve had to ponder questions about my belonging such as:

  • Does this item cost more to ship than it does to purchase?
  • How likely is this item to break during the move?
  • Is this even allowed cross-country (e.g., pet food, human food)?

In the case of big moves, like my move from Los Angeles to Amsterdam, I tried to sell as many things as possible and “donated” the rest to Goodwill.

I put donated in air-quotes because I’ve read that most of the things that you give to Goodwill won’t ever be sold, whether because of not having enough space or not having enough demand.

That was before I learned about the Buy Nothing Project.

When I was moving back to the US from the Netherlands, I had a lot of items to give away but there was no local equivalent of Goodwill where I could just “donate” all of my stuff.

I had to get creative and ask around.

And luckily I found this amazing freecycle group called Amsterdam deelt/geeft. I was able to donate many of my household items to a combination of this freecycle group and this FB group that helps out refugees in Amsterdam, I was able to find a new home for most of my belongings!

Why I Love the Buy Nothing Project

I have absolutely taken advantage of my (super active) local Buy Nothing Project to help me furnish my new apartment in Seattle. My cat, Might Mouse, is more than satisfied too.

Check out what he was gifted (for free, of course!)

A kind neighbor was giving away a K&H heated window sill lounger. It’s Spring now so I haven’t plugged it in, but he already loves it as is. He sits there quite often to key an eye on the bird feeder (that I also received from my Buy Nothing group).

Another gift, in what is crazily coincidental, is the ripple rug. I had just published a post titled Exciting Toys For Bored Cats where I suggested the ripple rug as an eco-friendly option (it’s made from 100% recycled plastic bottles).

Literally a day later, someone offered this up in my Buy Nothing group. I was the only one who commented interest and I was gifted it! It’s also machine washable so right when I got home, I ran it through a wash cycle and it came out as good as new.

My cats absolutely LOVE it. One cat will squeeze himself between the two layers while the other cat will keep pouncing on top of him.

Other items I’ve been gifted include a cute penguin night light for my bathroom, a set of holiday-themed shampoo & conditioner bars, a set of glass mixing bowls that I now use on a daily basis, an under-the-chair hammock for cats, a pull-up bar for the doorway, this super cute coffee table book called Flying Dogs, and (this one’s been my favorite so far) someone gifted me their front-row tickets to the Grammy-award winning The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs production at the Seattle Opera.

Just to give you an idea of other stuff offered, I’ve seen the following items offered in just my 2 months here so far: XBox 360 + 2 controllers + a handful of games, lots of beds & sofas & furniture, tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet production, tickets to the Woodland Park zoo, lots of cool books, make-up that didn’t match someone’s skin tone, kitchen items, and much more.

Get Creative

And it’s not just about giving and getting free items, you can also offer services or ask to borrow items.

For example, I often see requests to borrow a power drill or a certain book someone needs for book club, or to borrow a cake pan when someone gets the inkling to bake once in a blue moon.

There are a few bags of clothes going around, from one person to the next, where someone can request to be next in line to see if they want any of the clothes in the bag. Afterward, they can contribute to that bag as well, and then pass it along to the next person.

There are a few bags of various sizes and there’s also currently a bag full of random computer cables.

Someone recently trimmed their jade plant and was offering the trimmings for other members to start their own plant – 12 people went and got trimmings from her!

An Abundance Mentality

The Buy Nothing Project is a fantastic project to get more of us in the mindset of sharing our resources and believing in the generosity and helpfulness of our neighbors.

When I had to move cross-country with my cats, I needed a large crate to transport them from car to hotel. I asked my small 150-member Buy Nothing group and someone offered me theirs.

When I arrived in Seattle, in a full circle, I offered it out to my local Buy Nothing group.

By sharing resources and giving when we can, we can help our neighbors, we can utilize less of our finite resources to buying, manufacturing, and disposing of new items, and we can save money and the planet.

Now what are you waiting for? Go and join your local Buy Nothing group now 🙂

a pin with text overlay: a guide to the buy nothing project and how to share with your neighbors