Building a community by buying nothing

Meg Gardner, seen here at the market held in the Garden of Remembrance earlier this month, is leading the Fish Hoek community group on the Buy Nothing app that allows you to “give where you live”.

What if there were a way you could get the things you really need without paying any money? Perhaps you recently decluttered, are left with things you no longer need, and want to give them as gifts?

Megan Gardner, of Fish Hoek, is leading a community group on the Buy Nothing app that allows you to “give where you live”.

A Buy Nothing group is exactly what it sounds like: You buy nothing.

Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, started the Buy Nothing Project in 2013 to create a “hyper-local gift economy” in their community.

No bartering, trading, or accepting of payments is allowed.

Ms Gardner, who is originally from America and moved to Fish Hoek in 2019, has been leading the local community group since August.

As a “community builder”, she volunteers time to nurture the group, post information and answer questions.

She considers Buy Nothing to be unique because neither she nor anyone else profits from it. “There is no money involved, it’s about building a community and giving generously without expecting anything in return,” she said.

“When I lived in the USA, I belonged to my local Buy Nothing Facebook group. In my experience as a mom with three children, this project is especially useful to families whose children rapidly outgrow clothing, footwear, and sports equipment.”

When she moved to Fish Hoek, she missed her group because she had gotten so used to the constant giving and receiving.

“Having experienced the amazing results that this can produce, I decided to help make this happen where I live now because I would really like to see it take off,” she said

She has invited friends to join and posted in various Facebook groups, letting people know that it’s a great way to give things away and sometimes get things that you could not otherwise afford.

To date, there are over 400 members in the Fish Hoek community group.

On December 3, Ms Gardner had a free give-away table at the market held at the Garden of Remembrance in Fish Hoek.

“The majority of the items I brought to give away were taken. Additionally, I got to show people what the app looks like and how it works, and the concept was well received.” Ms Gardner said.

Carenza Saunders joined the group after hearing about it from Ms Gardner. She was intrigued by the idea of passing on some things and perhaps getting some things she might need.

“My daughter attends a university in Stellenbosch, where the heat can be unbearable on some days. I asked on the group if anyone had a desk fan she could use, and I received two, which she is very grateful for,” Ms Saunders said.

She added: “It’s such an amazing feeling to be able to pass something on to someone who really needs it, or receive something you really need. I’m excited to see how this group grows.”

The Buy Nothing app is free to download from Google Play and the Apple App Store.