It’s called the “Buy Nothing Project.” The group was started near Seattle in 2013 by two friends who wanted to create a gift economy in their neighborhood that was focused on reducing and reusing. It’s since spread to communities around the world, including San Diego where there are currently three groups in Point Loma and two in Ocean Beach.
The premise is simple: use the group to “gift” items to your neighbors or ask group members for something you want or need. The catch? No money can exchange hands and you cannot trade one item for another. It has to be given away (gifted) for free.
“It’s a bit addicting,” Jeanette Woodward said. “It feels so good to give something away that you are not using, and you are giving it to someone that is often very happy to receive it.”
Woodward helps manage one of the groups in Point Loma. All of the groups are managed using the group feature on Facebook and members participate by joining the group closest to where they live.
“Buy Nothing is hyper-local with the idea being you are gifting and receiving from your immediate neighbors,” Woodward said. “So, it helps facilitate meeting your neighbors and develop those relationships.”
Common items, she said, that are gifted or requested in the groups include furniture, household appliances, children’s clothing, toys and items for babies. A quick scan of one of the Ocean Beach Buy Nothing groups shows a request for a candle holder, boys jeans to give away, 40 hangers up for grabs and a pair of cleats ready to be donated.
It’s not just “things” that are given away. Time, services and talents are sometimes offered as well. People offer to help fix electronics, put together furniture and help people move. As long as it’s legal, you can gift it.
Woodward has been involved with the group for about five years and said she is “amazed at how much generosity people have.”
She said she recently posted an ask that she felt was a “pie in the sky” request. She needed space to store a trailer for a couple of months. She said she wasn’t sure anyone would be able to deliver but then received multiple offers with people volunteering space in their driveways and yards.
“I’m amazed that people I do not know, that I have never even had a drink with, are willing to let me store this at their house,” she said. “People are so generous. It’s a lot of good karma getting passed along.”
If you are interested in joining one of the groups, search “Buy Nothing” on Facebook and look for the one in your neighborhood. Or visit buynothingproject.org and search for your area.
Lynn Walsh is a freelance journalist and an Obecian. She works to promote trust between journalists and the public through the Trusting News project and teaches at Point Loma Nazarene University. Originally from Ohio, Lynn has grown to love living at the beach and posts way too many San Diego sunset photos on Instagram.