In years and decades past, we were closer with our neighbors. Maybe we had more time to connect, maybe we made it more of a priority or were less closed off to new people. Now, many times we think we’re too busy to meet our neighbors. Stopping over to ask for an egg or cup of sugar happens, but it happens a lot less. In its place, as with many things, has come the rise of an online version of this neighborly closeness.
Enter Buy Nothing Project.
It’s the twenty-first century’s solution to the decline of neighborly courtesy. Buy Nothing groups exist in every state and countries around the world. The intent behind them is to be ultra-local. In larger cities, they’re specific to your exact neighborhood and street boundaries. In more rural areas, they’re town-specific. You can only be in one Buy Nothing group, and it must be the one in the place you actually live. This way you know that all the people you’re sharing with are nearby. They’re actually your neighbors.
How It Works
The groups are all on Facebook, and you can find yours using this list. If one doesn’t exist in your area, you can even start your own. In each group, members of the neighborhood can post items they’re offering up for free to anyone else in the group. This can be nearly anything–a box of food, home decor, books and movies, clothes, children’s supplies. There’s little off the table. Anyone else who is interested in receiving the gifted items can comment, and gifters then choose a recipient and connect with them for pickup. Likewise, though less common, those in need of something particular can put out a request to see if anyone in the neighborhood can make that gift for them (the equivalent of asking neighbors for an egg).
It’s the site of extremely visible generosity. There are dozens of posts a day in many of these groups, and the kindness shown between complete strangers is beautiful. People connected, all through their proximity to each other and willingness to share what they have.
In light of the pandemic, most groups are requiring no-contact pickup, meaning people leave gifted items out on their porches for recipients to pick up when they can. In this way, the spirit of giving, and the tangible benefits it can provide for people in need, continues to be alive and well in Buy Nothing groups, even without the option for face to face interaction. People stay safe and still share with their neighbors. Whether through critical gifts, like food and hygiene supplies gifted to nearby people in need, or less essential gifts that make life a bit better, this modern version of neighborly kindness is thriving, and proving that people are more generous than we sometimes credit them.
Annie Burdick is a writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon, but transplanted from the Midwest. She also works as a community inclusion specialist for adults with disabilities. Previously she's edited and written for magazines, websites, books, and small businesses, on an absurdly wide range of topics. She spends the rest of her time reading, eating good food, and finding new adventures in the Pacific Northwest.