A New Buy Nothing Group

Denisa has long been a firm believer in doing what she can to help the environment and improve the world around her. She’s taken the kids out each Earth Day to go pick up trash along our street, she’s taught classes at UMF around reducing waste, and she’s been an active participant in different online groups about the topic. She upped her game a few days ago, however, deciding to take the step from being a participant to being a leader, despite the fact that it was a step that put her out of her comfort zone.

On the surface, the Buy Nothing Project seems pretty straightforward: it’s got to be about a bunch of people either trying to get free stuff or avoiding buying new stuff to reduce waste. That’s what I assumed when Denisa first started talking about it, at least. But it turns out it’s much more than that. The idea is to use social media as a tool for connecting communities, eliminating needless purchases, helping other people, and making new friends. That sounds like a really ambitious goal for a group, but this video gives a good overview about it:

They’re very specific about the rules for the group. For one thing, people are limited to belonging to one group only, determined by their geography. (This helps avoid anyone just joining a bunch of groups and going around trying to score free stuff.) You’re allowed to post things you’re looking to give away or things you’re looking to get. No money or bartering for anything. They’re all supposed to be essentially gifts. And what was most surprising to me, the groups are intended to be fairly small: 1,000 people or less.

The reason is simple: the group hopes to connect people. To get people to know their neighbors and start doing nice things for them. (It’s not just about giving away free things. It also encourages people to post expressions of gratitude or offer services like teaching a skill or helping with a chore.) If the group gets too large, then it’s both unwieldy to manage, and the close knit community can’t really flourish as well. With that in mind, they suggest limiting the geographical footprint of any one group to 10-25,000 residents.

Denisa loved the idea, but there was one big problem: no group existed in our area. Maine has a few, but if you live outside those boundaries, you’re not allowed to join. So Denisa reached out to find out about how to go about creating a new official group for the Buy Nothing Project. The Buy Nothing Mt. Blue Area, ME Facebook group was born, and she’s working on drumming up interest now. She thought limiting to the school district was a natural boundary most people already recognize in the area. It’s people who are already connected through schools, after all. So that means that towns like Jay or Strong are out of range, unfortunately, but if you live in the Mt. Blue school district and any of this sounds interesting, I encourage you to give it a shot. If you live outside that area, then check to see if there’s a group already in your area. If there isn’t, you could always form one!

Social media doesn’t have to be a divisive thing, and I really like the idea of it being used for community building this way. Denisa’s been doing a ton of research on how to make a successful group and how to make the page as useful as possible, and it’s been nice to see her start diving into the ins and outs of a platform, since that’s usually something she’s shied away from. Go check it out, and join if you meet the criteria.


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