It’s called the “Buy Nothing Project” (buynothingproject.org). 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 two groups in Pacific and Mission beaches and one in La Jolla.
“It’s not about the stuff,” Molly Stewart said. “The whole thing is about getting to know your neighbors and building community.”
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.
“We all have stuff that is just lying around our house,” Stewart said. “You ask yourself, ‘do I hold on to this or do I get rid of it?’ Then you see an ask in the group and you are able to fulfill it and you know it is going to someone who can use it. It’s very fulfilling.”
Stewart helps manage one of the groups in Pacific Beach and said she has made some really good friends through the group. All of the groups are managed using the group feature on Facebook and members participate by joining the group closest to where they live.
The groups do have rules and as Stewart said, it may not be a place for everyone. While there is the ability to “speed-gift,” the point of the group is not to give it to the first person who responds or who is online the most, Stewart said.
People are asked to let group members comment on a post for 24-48 hours before making a decision about who will receive the items or services.
Common items gifted or requested in the groups include furniture, household appliances, children’s clothing, toys and items for babies. 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.
“Most recently someone was gifting tickets to Birch Aquarium,” Stewart said. “There was another woman who was sick and people brought food over to her. I have given away tickets to SeaWorld. The group gives you the ability to provide those experiences.”
If you are interested in joining one of the groups, search buynothingproject.org/find-a-group/#CA.
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.