Cover Story

Cover Story

Buy Nothing Manningham

By Hayley Williams

I first heard of the Buy Nothing Project (BNP) through a local community page. The BNP originated in the U.S.A. and aims to build community through developing local gift economies. According to the BNP, a gift economy “means everything shared on Buy Nothing is given freely, no money, no barter, no strings." Members can make three types of posts: “Gifts” of things that others could use; Requests (“Asks”) for things they may need; and “Gratitudes” to express thanks or appreciation. Community Builders support each local group by offering help, guidance and creative challenges, as well as reminding members to follow the Community Guidelines published by the BNP.

After reading the BNP manifesto I was captivated. The idea of buying less and sharing more – knowing it makes us all richer and the planet cleaner – really resonated with me. Once I joined and learnt more, I came to appreciate that this was a powerful way to build community with my neighbours.

The beauty of the BNP is connecting with like-minded individuals with similar values: community, trust and kindness. During the past two years, this group made me feel less isolated and alone. When we couldn’t move around to gift non-essential items we shared recipes, well-being posts and positive topics. I’m so grateful for this group through that difficult time.

Beyond the fantastic individual gifting economy we have built, our members facilitate larger giving projects. Each year we collect unwanted bed linen and blankets for animal shelters. This year, eight extra-large boxes have been collected, with more to come. Following the damaging storm event last year, we ferried several car-loads of gifts to our friends in the hills. Everything from hot water bottles, winter clothing and sleeping bags to groceries and art supplies were donated. I was so proud to be part of such a generous and caring community.  We also supplied quality preloved items to support and show care for a person who was homeless and had their belongings stolen.

Rising food costs prompted me to share a soup recipe for those who hadn’t made soup before. The response was surprisingly positive and I have been sharing other recipes. We are also working with one member to start a soup swap for anyone who wants homemade soup at any time. It is such a gift to find a space to care for others in such a practical way.

Often members ask for ideas of support services for different circumstances and there is a wealth of knowledge shared. Gardening tips, seeds and cuttings are quite frequently shared.

We believe there is enough in our surplus for the needs of our community. I can only imagine the scale of items saved from going to landfills. Donating to charities is great, but the BNP brings you closer to the recipient of your gift and you know it is going to someone who wants it. Eventually, we would love to see BNP groups sprout in all postcodes in Manningham, as well as some adjoining postcodes which we currently cover. I have been pleasantly surprised by how undemanding it is to participate as a Community Builder, particularly for the reward I receive by witnessing the altruism and humanity of my neighbours. I’m sure that my role is made easier by the incredible work of my fellow Community Builder, Georgie! I would recommend trying this group to feel more connected to your local community.

For more info, please visit
Facebook: Buy Nothing Manningham, VIC