The free world of “don’t buy”

  When Chanita Barnes first heard about the “Don’t Buy” movement, she thought the idea was too good to be true.
  Barnes, 32, is a mother of four. When she was busy moving, a friend mentioned a social platform group to her, where people gave each other free things, from green plants to pianos. People in the group can post for help asking for a ladder, or give away leftovers from a holiday dinner for free.
  Barnes applied to join a “don’t buy” group in her community, and was quickly given her previously unaffordable sofa, bedroom furniture and kitchen utensils. Barnes has gradually realized a seemingly novel but ancient concept in his “don’t buy” activities again and again: share everything, get what you need, and provide what’s left.
  Today, while countless Americans are on a buying spree, doing everything they can to empty their shopping carts, Barnes is in the “don’t buy” movement. The movement is gaining momentum, and it promotes a very simple philosophy: “buy nothing.”
  In 2013, a hyperlocal network of “circular gift economy” was established on Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. Today, it has grown into countless “don’t buy” groups with 4.3 million members in 44 countries. Members of this group may solicit or provide any legitimate goods or services, but the sale and barter of goods is not permitted.
  To its proponents, “don’t buy” is not so much a consumerist manifesto as a remedy for current social ills and economic pressures. Today, inflation in the United States is at its highest level in 40 years, and the “don’t buy” movement offers just that, an effective way to save resources and greatly reduce waste. In addition, “don’t buy” can greatly alleviate the suffocating loneliness during the epidemic by strengthening the connection between people.
  Lisa Clark, 55, one of the founders of Don’t Buy, said that in the gift circulation process, it often happens that different members want the same gift, but in any case, the final decision is on the table. in the hands of the giver. This interactive process creates connections and even friendships between people, and everyone involved can benefit from it.

Not long after Barnes joined Don’t Buy, she was harvesting necessities she couldn’t afford, such as sofas, bedroom furniture and kitchen utensils. When she has the ability to give back to the community, she first pulls out her premature daughter’s old clothes, which are full of memories and love of a mother.

  ”People have been isolated for so long, and now we’re coming out of that isolation and using objects as a medium to get to know each other,” Clark said. “We’re able to happily share objects and even laugh about it.”
| Signs of Abundance |

  Clark, who grew up in Massachusetts, has a “ten thousand year stalk” in her family: all the cheese in the refrigerator is blue cheese (a premium cheese that’s covered with mold). Her Depression-era mother would scrape the mold off and continue to eat the mold-free parts. “She doesn’t waste anything,” Clark said.
  It was this experience that shaped her attitude towards consumption, which in turn gave birth to the “don’t buy” movement. Clark said the mission of the movement is not only to reduce consumption, but also to make people aware of their abundance.
  Clark first had the idea for a “don’t buy” movement in 2000. At the time, she was working as a documentary filmmaker and was traveling with a team of scientists to a remote cave on the Nepalese border where an ancient group of humans on Earth was the last place to settle. In the centuries since, she said, it has been deserted. However, the artifacts they unearthed demonstrate the importance of shared resources to humanity.
  ”Sharing what we have, and taking care of each other in a collective, is a human tradition since time immemorial,” says Clark. However, Daniel Fisher, associate professor of consumer communication and sustainability at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands Over time, the way of sharing based on satisfying universal human needs has been replaced by the behavior of consumption, which we identify as consumers as a “natural” way to meet our own needs, Ernst said. Consumption has become our second skin, and we often start shopping without thinking.
  Consumption is the backbone of the American economy. Retail sales data and consumer confidence indices are closely watched as barometers of the health of the economy. According to data provided by Adobe, consumers spend as much as $12 million per minute on Cyber ​​Monday (the first Monday after Black Friday, the most popular online shopping day in the United States).
  The dopamine produced by impulse buying only makes people happy for a while, but the consequences can be dire. Data from the National Academy of Sciences shows that the United States has become the world’s largest producer of plastic waste, with an average of 287 pounds of plastic waste produced per citizen per year. An article published in the journal Nature in 2020 warns: Excessive consumption and one-sided pursuit of economic growth have led to an explosion in greenhouse gas emissions.
|”Everyone has something to share”|

  The “don’t buy” movement not only allows people to get what they want and get what they want while reducing waste, it also brings neighbors closer together. Cressan Monggreen said “don’t buy” has been a habit of her family for many years. In 2013, Mong Green, who lives in Seattle, helped found the first local “no buy” group, and today there are more than 100 “no buy” groups in the city.
  When she first joined “Don’t Buy”, Monggreen’s child was still very young. She kept buying new books, new toys, and new clothes for her children, but she would throw them away after a while, which made Monggreen feel a pity. Monggreen, 51, estimates that over the next eight years, she has given away thousands of items and received far fewer items. It was interesting to see that the things she had used before were still circulating in the community. For example, a children’s bookshelf she threw away a few years ago has now reached its fifth new home.
  Monggreen said she was grateful that Don’t Buy gave her the opportunity to meet new people and give back to the local community. In the early days of the new crown epidemic, she used to relieve stress by baking, often asking for flour in the local “do not buy” group. “Someone would bring me flour, and I would put the finished bread on the doorstep for everyone to pick up for free,” she said. “Although I didn’t have face-to-face interactions with these people at the time, I was integrated in this way. Community.”
  For Anna Baltasser, who joined local Don’t Buy in Claremont, Calif., in 2017, the biggest lure at the time was “free stuff.” Today, she is the manager of the organization. She said the position has brought her some of the best experiences of her life.

  In March 2019, Susan Ito, 62, decided to join Don’t Buy to give it a try. At the time, she was leaving her home in Oakland, California, and was downsizing. She set herself a small goal: to give away three to five items a day.

Mong Green, from Seattle, helped launch the first local “Don’t Buy” organization in 2013. By her estimates, she has given away thousands of items so far. She is happy to see her old stuff still circulating in the community.

  Ito said she once drew a picture of a strange-looking lion. In the past, as long as the painting was placed on the mantelpiece, it would draw ridicule from the family. However, the painting sparked a fierce “fighting battle” among the children of the “don’t buy” group. “This painting, which was regarded as a waste by my family, did not expect to bring infinite joy to the children.” Ito said.
  Ito also made a request to a neighbor for a VCR to play old tapes in the house. A broken player was soon delivered, and she eventually spent a year fixing the VCR and seeing the contents of the tape. One volume was filmed on Christmas morning in 1995, when her parents were still alive. When watching the children unwinding their Christmas stockings and their parents patiently helping to set up tents, dolls and other Christmas gifts, Ito said excitedly: “I was so moved to see them walking and talking in the picture. Thank you so much ‘Don’t Buy’.”
| Big Questions and Small Interludes |

  At times, this altruistic activity also encounters thorny conundrums. So far, “do not buy” groups are still subject to geographical restrictions, and the maximum number of members is around 1,000. Because once you scale, team members feel impersonal, Clark said. She also admitted that restricting the geographic scope too far can also be a “big problem.”

  The “don’t buy” movement not only allows people to get what they want and get what they want while reducing waste, it also brings neighbors closer together.

Barnes is looking for giveaway children’s shoes through Don’t Buy. As a mother of four children, she has obtained many daily necessities from “not buying”, and she has also gained happiness by giving others.

  Clark said the new app is meant to address this problem by “removing geographic boundaries,” enabling users to choose their own scope of sharing. Currently, users have a range of one, three, and six miles to choose from, with more options likely in the future.
  ”If it’s Manhattan, that’s a mile,” Clark said. “But we’ve seen users in Zambia say, ‘My nearest neighbor is 20 miles away.’ So there needs to be a There’s more to choose from, and we’re working on that.”
  In addition, members of the organization may have trouble picking things up, especially for people of color. Barnes, who is African-American, said one time when she went to a neighbor’s house to get something, the man who answered the door thought she was a robber. Although she took the two-year-old and tried to explain to the man, he kept staring at her and threatened to call the police. Although Barnes eventually reached out to someone in the neighbor’s house who could identify her, the man still didn’t apologize to her.
  Later, when Barnes shared the experience with the rest of the “Don’t Buy” group, and learned that others had been through similar experiences, the members’ encouragement revived her. They unanimously decided to start writing names on items in circulation and to inform their neighbors about their activities to prevent all kinds of trouble.
  But the blip didn’t dampen Barnes’ enthusiasm for “don’t buy.” When she started giving back to the community, one of the first things she did was give away the clothes she had previously bought for her premature daughter. She was in tears when packing clothes for another mother of a premature baby, as it brought back memories of her daughter’s birth. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, please take care of these clothes!'” Barnes said.

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