Week 16

Buy Nothing

I have talked about buying, selling, borrowing and donating stuff on Facebook here before. Between Marketplace and local buy/sell/trade groups, there is so much quality clothing, toys, furniture, home decor, you name it, that it seems crazy to buy something new without at least looking there first.

But the group I want to talk about today is my neighborhood Buy Nothing group. With the mantra “Give. Share. Build Community,” the group is almost 1,500 members strong and is part of a national movement. You can search for one in your area at buynothingproject.org.

Find your local group at buynothingproject.org

As long as you live within a given group’s boundaries, you can request to join and start giving and accepting “gifts” right away. People join for a number of reasons, from decluttering to supporting a circular economy, to being in need or helping others who are. I have mostly been on the giving end, though I did borrow an awesome purse for my Halloween costume from this group.

This week alone, I donated 10 shirts to a woman that had fallen on hard times, toiletries to a church that makes kits for the homeless, and bedding for a woman escaping an abusive relationship who had been sleeping on the floor. In the past, I’ve gifted winter gear for people on a reservation in South Dakota, board games, tickets and coupons to Mall of America, wedding decor, baby gates, and have lent out a travel car seat cover. In the cases of people in need, someone else in the group is usually posting and collecting the items on their behalf, so their identities remain anonymous.

Of course, you can donate your stuff to Goodwill or local thrift shops or shelters, but what happens to that stuff after you drop it off? Minnesota author Adam Minter wrote a book about this called “Secondhand,” where he visited Goodwills and followed the stuff from drop off through the whole process. The truth is, two-thirds of the stuff dropped off at Goodwill can’t be sold in stores, or isn’t desirable, like heavy furniture or exercise equipment, and ends up being exported overseas, sent to outlet stores, recycled, or as trash.

If you’re in Minnesota and looking for other places to donate your items, check out donategoodstuff.org. Here you can type in the items you have and get a list of places specifically in need of those things.

For me, donating my stuff directly to people or organizations that I know will make good use of them not only feels good in a charitable way, but is also a form of climate action. The more that our stuff can be circulated to other people who will use it, and stay out of the trash that much longer, the better. The secondhand market is growing and becoming more mainstream, even for people who can afford to buy new but choose not to.

I hope this trend continues to grow in popularity, and know there are many people working toward this goal. Locally, places like the Minneapolis Toy Library, Tool Library, Repair Lair and soon-to-open Rethink Tailoring are bringing new life to old stuff and keeping them out of the garbage for years to come.

So next time you have some stuff to pass on, I hope you’ll check out some of these amazing local resources, or find similar organizations in your area, and keep the circular economy going strong!

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