Buy Nothing Project – Building Community Through Giving and Helping
By Tammie Rafferty
For My Miami County
TIPP CITY - A social experiment known as the Buy Nothing Project that began in Bainbridge Island, Washington is making its way around the world and most recently came to Miami County.
The Buy Nothing Tipp City/Bethel Township, OH Facebook Group has nearly 850 community members that are ready to meet one another’s needs, and this number is growing every day.
The purpose of the local group, according to its mission statement, is to “Buy nothing. Give freely. Share creatively. Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Abide by the Community Agreement. Keep it legal.”
Buy Nothing Tipp City/Bethel Township, OH group founder Erin Orians, who lives in Bethel Township, said she learned about the “buy nothing” concept while reading a book, and then couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“I first learned of it in a book called The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart,” she said. “In the book, she talks about many, many ways in which we can challenge consumerism and waste in our culture, and the Buy Nothing Project was among those examples. When I read about the BNP in the book, I was hooked. It took me a couple years and a pandemic to realize I wanted to make this a reality in our community, though. Eventually, in October 2020, I just got a crazy itch to make it happen, so I looked into starting an official group for Tipp and Bethel.”
Since October 2020, the group has picked up momentum, including adding now co-administrator, Jennifer Custer of Tipp City, who said she first came across the group by chance.
“I first learned of the group by dumb luck, just surfing through Facebook one night,” she said.
“I read the mission and loved the concept of reducing, reusing, and recycling while establishing a sense of community. I read the guidelines and dipped my toes in by asking for a gift. Within 24 hours my need was met, and I was hooked.”
After receiving, Jennifer decided to start giving.
“Our family started looking to purge some of our excesses and started posting gifts. It was wonderful to make a connection with someone in our community with items we no longer had use for, and others needed,” she said.
Pictured at far left is Erin Orians, who, after reading the book The Grace of Enough, was inspired to start a Buy Nothing Group in Tipp City/Bethel Twp. She was later joined by co-administrator, Jennifer Custer and her dog, Moose, at left.
Ask, Give and Gratitude
There are three types of posts allowed in the group: Ask, Gift, and Gratitude.
Ask and Gift posts can be for any tangible item. Scrolling through posts on the group’s Facebook page that range from pianos and sofas to opened coffee creamers and empty pickle jars proves there is no item too big or too small to ask for or to give away. (see examples of gifts at bottom of story)
“One of my favorite interactions was when my dog, Moose (pictured above), ate the floof ball off of my husband’s new hat,” Jennifer recalls. “I was certain that the hat would not be able to be repaired, but I had a member reach out saying she could probably fix it. Not only did she fix the hat, but she also left our pup a treat. It further solidified my gratitude towards the kindness of members in our community.”
Erin added, “Another great thing to see is when gifts get passed around – books are common re-gifts, and a puppy gate has also served several families in various ways now.”
Let it Simmer
Part of the appeal of the group is building relationships with neighbors. One of the ways this is done is by letting gifts “simmer,” rather than giving them on a first-to-comment basis. Members often ask those interested in their gifts to answer questions about themselves or how the gift will be used, and then they select a favorite answer and recipient days later.
During a recent Facebook Live event, Erin discussed the importance of letting gifts “simmer.”
“This deemphasizes instant gratification and builds relationships. Meeting neighbors is the number-one goal of the group and reusing and recycling is secondary.”
Gifts and Asks are not always materialistic in the Buy Nothing Group.
“Gifts can be of self, talent and time,” Erin said. “One of my favorite interactions was when a member asked for someone to make fidget blankets/sensory mats for some dementia patients she was working with. Another member responded that she could help and ended up sewing from scratch a beautiful, functional fidget blanket for the asking member’s patients. It was so awesome.”
Erin submitted this story to the primary Buy Nothing page where it was featured in February.
“There are so many moments in the group that are just magical!” Jennifer said. “If you can think of any want, need or act of service under the sun, I am certain you may find someone willing to help. Our community has needs, and families who are gracious enough to share from their abundance. Everybody brings value to the group, promoting the concept that the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors!”
Almost every “Ask” that is met or “Gift” that is given in the group is followed up by a “Gratitude” post. Erin explains, “When people bring back gratitude it’s so heartwarming and cool to see contacts being made. We’re addicted to gratitude and the natural high of seeing each other bonding.”
Jennifer agrees, adding, “We’re building connections with one another and ultimately a place of belonging and generosity in our community. It’s nice to celebrate all the good things when sometimes you only hear the negative stuff.”
Erin and Jennifer said one of their favorite examples of community connections and gratitude in the group was between members Sarah Rose and Mary Butts, and ultimately, their sons.
In March, Sarah posted in the group,
“Somewhat odd ASK: My 2nd grade son got some lacrosse equipment for camp this summer, but we are not sure if it all fits him correctly. Does anyone have a lacrosse player in the family who could take a look?”
Mary quickly responded,
“Our oldest has been involved with lacrosse since 2nd grade (he’s now a 6th grader). We’d be happy to help!”
The gratitude that followed pictured Mary’s son, Eli, working with 8-year-old, Alex Rossetter (pictured below left), and was accompanied by Sarah’s message,
“GRATITUDE! Thank you to Mary Butts for bringing your son over to help my son get his lacrosse equipment on correctly and to teach him a few tricks!”
Mary replied with,
“Thank you for giving Eli an opportunity to teach about something he loves! He said he did really well and was impressed he could throw on both sides. Excited for your future lacrosse player!”
Only One of Its Kind and Willing to Help
The Buy Nothing Tipp City/Bethel Township, OH Group is currently the only one of its kind in Miami County, and members must live in Tipp City or Bethel to participate.
However, Erin said she is willing to help anyone start their own group.
“We would be so excited to help anyone who would like to bring the Buy Nothing Project to other nearby communities,” she said. Anyone interested in setting up an official Buy Nothing Project group, and becoming a group administrator, can register for a free online self-paced training course at buynothingproject.org. The “Group” platform on Facebook is then a free feature for its users.
Erin said she is more than willing to assist or answer any questions area residents may have. She can be contacted via Facebook Messenger at @erin.orians.
Tipp City and Bethel Township residents wishing to join the local group can find it HERE.
NEW! A Troy Group has been formed, join by clicking HERE.
To learn more about the national group, click HERE.
Here are some examples of the items that are given away in the Tipp City/Bethel Twp. Buy Nothing Group, photos provided.