How Buying Nothing Changed Everything
by Amanda Ruch, Service Manager at Two Bettys
May 4, 2021
Have you heard the joke about Minnesotans loving a good deal? From a hot buy at the farmers’ market to a fabulous garage sale, people (especially midwesterners) get jazzed about these great finds!
Over the last year, we found something even greater within our community. A dear friend mentioned that she joined a ‘Buy Nothing’ Facebook group and it immediately piqued my interest. Despite the pandemic, I am in a position where I can absolutely obtain the things I want and need, but the idea of “buying nothing” appealed to my clearance-rack-loving self.
With a little research, I learned that Buy Nothing started as an experimental project on Bainbridge Island, WA. Back in 2013, two friends got together to address the three R’s within their community: reducing, reusing, and recycling. They built out some simple, universal rules:
Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. No hate speech. No buying or selling, no trades or bartering, we’re strictly a gift economy.
After a bit of Facebook group surfing, I found a Buy Nothing group that served my neighborhood. Scrolling through the page, I was amazed to see the items my neighbors were posting as “gifts.” From fast food condiments, to extra groceries, wedding dresses, a Nintendo Wii, even notary services! Some of my favorite finds in the group have been a bamboo coffee table that is the perfect place for my plants to live, and an XBOX360, which has provided many hours of entertainment. During a recent move, I gifted several items I no longer need and many of my neighbors offered boxes, bags, and other packing material to support me. It’s amazing to see the way our community and the gift economy support one another. It also feels great knowing that some things can be passed along to other community members to enjoy!
In addition to the gifts people post, there is also an opportunity for people to post “asks” for specific things and “gratitude” to express their appreciation. It was so fun to scroll through and see the different gives, asks, and gratitude that folks shared. There were moments of surprise and delight reading through the page. One of my all-time favorite asks was a person asking for an extra jalapeno—they were making salsa and realized they were short! The catch? They had already started the salsa-making process and their kiddo was napping, so it wouldn’t be ideal to go to the store. Within the hour, a jalapeno was en route!
Another favorite of mine is when folks receive a gift that is outside their transportation capability. There have been more times than I can count that other group members have chimed in to offer their trucks, trolleys, and assistance in getting a gift to the recipient. Through the group, members are able to build unique connections, share laughs, and create community.
Seeing a gift economy in action is truly magical. At the point I joined the Buy Nothing Facebook group, we were already well into the pandemic. In addition to helping fellow group members, we often saw asks on behalf of people who don’t have internet access, or group members posting curb alerts of items they saw out for solid-waste collection. The group I belong to also included George Floyd Square. Group members often post asks sharing their current needs and folks work together to meet the needs.
One of my favorite places to shout the goodness of Buy Nothing is here at Two Bettys! My enthusiasm knows no bounds, especially when it comes to supporting people and the planet. From coworkers to clients, I love chatting about it. It makes sense, too. Our community of Two Bettys clients reminds me a lot of my Buy Nothing community. At Two Bettys, we are a community of supporters. We care about people and we care about the planet. We get creative and find ways for everyone to win. Many things came out of 2020. Two of the greatest gifts were discovering my Buy Nothing Community and growing further into our Two Bettys Community.
Find your neighborhood’s Buy Nothing Facebook group:
Amanda is one of our trusty Service Managers here at Two Bettys. Service Managers are the connector between our Ops team, cleaners, and our clients and keep communication, service, and support up and running every single day. Each Service Manager is assigned a portion of our cleaners into their “house” (Amanda’s house is House of Gigi Squeegee), and all of those cleaner’s clients. Amanda describes herself as a raging optimist and takes great pride in making people’s day whenever possible. (Pssst – we’re also currently hiring an additional Service Manager to help us keep rebuilding and growing!)