The Buy Nothing Project is a new way to think about the world — rather than another place to ask for and receive freebies on Facebook, it’s a gift economy. The Project was founded in 2013, in Bainbridge Island, Washington, and has taken off with at least 3 million participants in 44 countries, according to the organization’s website. And now we have one in Hopewell Valley!
It’s really simple: with the spirit of “give where you live,” Buy Nothing is a place for neighbors to give and ask for tangible and/or non-tangible gifts all while expressing gratitude. When listing an item, one starts with the simple word “Give” and explains what is available, who it is available to, and for how long the option is open. When someone is looking for something, they write “Ask” and the description. When someone appreciates a gift or anything else related to the group, they post it as a “gratitude.”
Locally, the “Buy Nothing Hopewell Township, Mercer County, NJ” Facebook page was started by resident Megan Teitelbaum (nee Nicholson) after seeing the need for it for herself and the community. In 2020, Teitelbaum and her husband moved to their “new” old home they are renovating on Mountain Church Road in Hopewell Township. Before that, they lived in Princeton for five years.
“[Hopewell] is so close [to Princeton], and we’re familiar with this area, but upon moving to Hopewell we didn’t really know anyone here, and it’s been especially hard to meet people in the pandemic,” she shared.
Inspired by the Princeton Buy Nothing group Teitelbaum formerly participated in, she set out to create one of her own. “I loved the sense of community and the ability to think creatively about how to ask or give, but also the gratitude really makes it special,” she said. “People I didn’t even know would share pictures of the things I gave them in their own home and appreciate the gifts. It makes it easier to give things away or ask for things you wouldn’t have otherwise, when you feel fully supported in this community.”
The process of Buy Nothing page creation is governed by the Buy Nothing Project organization. “There was a training that you go through with Buy Nothing and they give you a lot of resources and support to get your group started, so in that sense it was easy.”
When discussing what kinds of things people give or receive, Teitelbaum shared, “I’ve been able to get clothes for my toddler, everything I needed when we got a new puppy, new items to fill out our house, and many other amazing gifts. Beyond the sense of community and the ability to help those who need it, it’s also a practical and environmentally friendly way to get the things you can use and offer what you can’t.”
Currently, the Hopewell Township group has more than 500 members in just three weeks. “I had no idea how it would be received in the area and especially because I didn’t know anyone to get the group started with. However, I’ve gotten so much more support and interest than I ever expected and has been such a lovely connection for me (and I think others, too!).”
One new Buy Nothing member, Justine Levine, shared, “Though I’ve belonged to a number of Freecycle groups (on Facebook and otherwise), I’ve never belonged to another group quite like this one. The difference really is in the sense of community: I love the framing of things as “gifts,” and the emphasis on “gratitude.” Honestly, it’s made me more creative … I had some plastic toys, and thought that it would be more fun to ‘gift’ them as Easter baskets that would make the recipient feel cared for. I bought some tea to go with a teapot I was giving away, something the recipient had mentioned in her response to my post. And I love the ‘ask’ feature, which feels more like walking over to a neighbor’s house to borrow a cup of sugar or an egg than the more faceless ISO [‘in search of’]. This group encourages community members to connect, to get to know one another, and to offer from our abundance. We are so in need of connection these days, and this feels like a meaningful way to do it while living more sustainably.”
In this Buy Nothing spirit, MercerMe publisher Mary Galioto and her team will Give: Three months of online advertising to one local Hopewell Valley business. As volunteers and local residents, we know how important our local businesses are to this community. The gift will “simmer” for three days and people will have the chance to nominate local businesses important to them. We’ll pick one and even include ad design to provide as much support as we can. We need to support one another. Give where you live!
Edit: To be accepted to the Buy Nothing Facebook group, you will need to answer three Facebook-prompted questions to verify your identity. Please keep an eye out for those questions!