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Niagara-on-the-Lake
Friday, August 12, 2022
Keeping it Green: ‘Buy Nothing’ project a sustainable hit
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A Facebook group that focuses on free gifting has significant environmental and community benefits. In Buy Nothing Niagara-on-the-Lake, forgotten items find homes, waste becomes treasure and neighbours become friends.

THE BUY NOTHING PROJECT: What began in 2013 as a hyper-local “gift economy” group, led by two women in Washington, has expanded into a global movement. Now, more than three million people belong to Buy Nothing groups in 44 countries.

Beyond running across the street to ask a neighbour for an egg, these groups take sharing to the next level. Members post gifts of all forms for others to express interest and everyone is welcome to post requests for anything they’d like to borrow or receive.

We have all come across an item at home and thought, “Why do I have this?” We might immediately put it back in a drawer and forget about it.

Buy Nothing connects people seeking these miscellaneous items with those who no longer need them.

It’s not a community bulletin: store recommendations, sales and offers to trade or barter are not welcome.

A first-come, first-served mentality is also frowned upon in the group. Members try to “let it simmer” and leave posts open for at least a day so that everyone interested can add their name.

Due to stay-home-orders, shopping lines are long and many donation centres are closed. Buy Nothing follows all COVID-19 restrictions and enables safe sharing of items by operating through porch pickups.

THE COMMUNITY: Our local group has almost 1,500 members, including residents from all five communities of NOTL. As an administrator, I volunteer to keep the group as inclusive and welcoming as possible.

Ultimately, Buy Nothing isn’t about the free stuff. “It’s not about the gift, it's about building community and getting to know and share with our neighbours,” says Frieda Krugel.

When Krugel was gifted an instructional book and caning supplies, she learned the technique to restore several chairs from her childhood.

Besides physical items, members also share “gifts of self.” They lend time to help weed a driveway, or sewing skills to repair a torn seam.

Gratitude posts are abundant. Recipients share heartfelt thanks and images of gifts being put to good use.

Though COVID-19 makes getting to know neighbours tricky, you can truly feel the love in this group. We look forward to a day soon when we can share a cup of tea with these generous new friends.

Sometimes folks leave little thank-yous or notes when they pick up gifts. One woman often leaves chocolates!

THE SUSTAINABILITY: Although Buy Nothing’s focus is community-building, many of its fundamental values are environmental. Through the group, unwanted goods are kept out of the landfill and members avoid making unnecessary purchases.

Local pickups produce fewer emissions than shipping online purchases or driving to stores.

As more residents hear about the group, they refrain from putting stuff out on garbage day and instead give neighbours a chance to repurpose it. Objects that need repair are not considered trash and are matched with eager tinkerers!

Some of the most unique gifts include toilet paper tubes for an owl sanctuary, hair dye, backsplash tile (to kids making mosaics), handmade Halloween costumes and a lock-keying kit!

Certain items are regifted many times: puzzles, novels, DVDs for quarantine entertainment. On a frantic moving day, one group member was kind enough to deliver boxes to my front porch!

So, if the urge to spring clean strikes, this community is the perfect way to “give where you live,” reduce waste and forge new relationships!

Kyra Simone is a NOTL-born nature lover with a master's degree in biology. In her spare time, she advocates for sustainable change, picks up garbage, makes recycled jewelry, and transforms furniture bound for the landfill.