What is the Buy Nothing Project and Why We Should All Participate
This article has been updated. It was originally shared in 2019.
A couple weeks ago, I got a recommendation from a friend to join the Facebook group Buy Nothing West Chester Borough – and to be honest, I was hesitant. I’m on Exton Area Yard Sale and Babysitters of the Main Line and rather than being of much use they have a tendency to be background noise in my ever more cluttered newsfeed.
On the other hand I have been Marie Kondo-ing the crap out of my house and I love this idea of reuse especially with things like toys and clothes (and gifts I don’t need.) Would this group be different?
Before committing to another group, I did a little research on the Buy Nothing Project and it turns out, the project has grown into a sort of a movement. The idea was started eight years ago by two women with the idea we have too much stuff and we are throwing too much of that stuff into landfills (I’m paraphrasing here but that’s the gist).
“[The idea is to] get people to literally ask themselves whether they can buy nothing,’ Liesl Clark, one of Buy Nothing’s co-founders told NPR. “I don’t care if it’s just for an hour, or for a day or for a week.”
The project also, has a secondary objective, foster a sense of community and interaction among neighbors. Instead of anonymous drop-offs and porch pick ups, in person meetings are encouraged. Instead of short to-the-point posts, casual conversation and chatty background is the preferred tone. As such the groups are meant to be hyper-local and are often not allowed to grow to more than one-thousand members. (Buy Nothing West Chester Borough, which since inception has split off a couple times shedding some of its greater-West Chester neighbors, currently has 1.1K members.)
So how did the West Chester chapter come to be and should I join? I spoke with group founder and local project admin Margaret Westbrook.
Q. How did you learn about the project?
Margaret: I heard about the Buy Nothing Project through another Facebook group I’m a member of called Minimalist Moms. I thought it looked interesting but was disappointed to see there wasn’t one here in West Chester so I decided to start one.
Q. What makes the Buy Nothing Project different from other Facebook groups?
Margaret: The Buy Nothing Project is really focused on free acts of kindness within the community with no strings attached. I liked the idea of this too, but my main motivation was to share the things I had that I would otherwise trash. So basically trash recycling and sharing. Also I’ve notice as technology increases in our daily lives that neighbors don’t really interact anymore like they use to. I still don’t know many of my neighbors and figured if most people are on Facebook anyway, why not try and connect those neighbors and build relationships? I really felt like the small town of West Chester could really benefit from a group like this.
Q. What was the best thing you got or got rid of through the group?
Margaret: The best thing I got rid of through the group was bubble wrap. This is a product that people send through the mail that really has no other use and then you just throw it away. A member wanted to use it for a preschool art project and I was really thrilled about that. I never would have thought someone would want it.
Q. How can people join?
Margaret: Log on to Facebook and search for Buy Nothing West Chester Borough (or follow this link). Answer the three questions to verify if you live within the boundaries. If the questions are not answered, the admins cannot approve membership. Right now in the West Chester area people can join in the town center which is the borough or in East Goshen. But you can only join one. If anyone wants to start a group in the other areas, that would be great too!
(Since our interview with Margaret the area has also added Buy Nothing West Chester (North) and Buy Nothing West Chester: Westtown/W Goshen/Thornbury and Buy Nothing Downingtown/West Bradford Township)
Q. Once you’re a member how does it work?
Margaret: Just join the group and start posting items or services you would like to give for free. The group is more personal than other free sharing groups. When you pick up or drop off an object, try to make a personal connection with your neighbor. This builds community.
So, I did it. I joined and I made my first post.
I was cleaning out the garage and I came across some old diggers, dump trumps, and excavators — your general array of construction vehicles — dirty and shoved in a corner. Their time at our house may have passed but maybe some other kid would find digging joy with them? Conditions varied, but nothing was broken. All suitable for sandbox play. Plus, I might meet another family in the neighbor with similarly aged children. Could this be a good candidate for Buy Nothing? I decided to post.
Posting was easy. I just snapped a pic and wrote a short description and hit post. Now I wait…
I got a response!!
The arrangement is for a porch pick-up. So not sure it will result in a face-to-face introduction like Margaret encouraged, but just through the polite posts and replies I feel a little closer to the community and if it results in me coming home to a porch free of dirty digger toys, I’ll consider this experience a winner.
Are you a member of the group? What are your thoughts so far?
Plus, a safety reason to cut back on those Amazon deliveries and another great way to get to know your neighbors (this one involving music).
Want more West Chester stories? Follow along. That’s all I do.