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Beyond Consumerism: Buy Nothing App

Beyond Consumerism articles seek out ideas big and small, for rethinking economic systems and reducing reliance on corporations and money.

Here we focus on using technology to help reduce consumption with a new 'Buy Nothing' app.

The Buy Nothing Project is an international network started in 2013 by two friends, Rebecca and Liesl,
in Washington, USA, which is now a worldwide social movement of over 4 million people in 44 countries. 6,000 Facebook groups are run by 12,000 volunteers, all working to expand the gift economy mindset, by giving and sharing items and skills. ‘Buy nothing, share everything’ is their motto.

The concept of the three R’s is quite well known – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and it is a major theme in our cleaning guides in issue 191.

The Buy Nothing Project focuses on Reduce, at the top of the hierarchy, but also talks about Refuse and Rethink.

“It’s clear that collectively our ‘consumer muscle’ has been overused, and we want to show the world that it’s possible to use that muscle in revolutionary ways: by sharing more, buying less, and creating a social safety net with our neighbors so we can pool resources and share radically for the common good.” (Buy Nothing app co-founder Liesl Clark)

In May 2021, it announced the launch of a beta version of a new BuyNothing app, which will allow participants to move beyond using Facebook groups, and also to easily quantify how much each community is saving from waste.

We got in touch with Cilente in Derby who has recently started a new group, to find out how the Buy Nothing Project differed from similar models of local sharing, and how it has been to start a group from scratch.

How is Buy Nothing different to Freegle/Freecycle?

Although Freecycle also has localised groups, they are usually much bigger than the Buy Nothing groups. The idea is to create hyper-local gifting economies (including gifts of time and expertise – not just goods) which foster a sense of community. Members are encouraged to engage with each other and 'first come first served' is therefore discouraged (but not disallowed).

What attracted you to start a group?

I was attracted to the idea as I feel that our modern society is too individualistic and we have lost the connection with our neighbours that living in small villages and similar communities would have provided a few decades ago, which seems to be a big contributing factor to mental health decline and societal breakdown.

I also feel that we need an alternative to the materialistic way of life that drives people to try and 'keep up with the Joneses' and keep buying new things when we live on a finite planet with finite resources. Infinite production was never sustainable, and a project like Buy Nothing can help us to return to a more circular economy that involves re-using and re-purposing things that may otherwise just end up in landfill.

How has the process been so far?

I have been able to follow the experiences of admins of other groups by joining an admin hub on Facebook where members share Q&As. This is both helpful and a little daunting, as there is so much information available. Reading about some difficulties other admins have had is useful, as it gives some indication of the types of issues that we might face, as well as how to handle such situations.

So far, the process has been relatively easy to follow in terms of completing training for group admins and then setting up a local group with defined border/boundaries, which was done witha lot of assistance from an admin lead. The idea is that once the group reaches a 'cap' on numbers of members, further breakaway groups could be established independently.

Find out more

Buy Nothing website

Buy Nothing Facebook

You can also join the waiting list for the finished app on the Buy Nothing website