Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Buy Nothing

Sure, kids often want ALL the toys, but you can avoid buying new and reuse what other local residents no longer need. (Photo by Jillian O'Connor)

Shop till you drop — or choose to Buy Nothing?

How families can really pull back on making new purchases this year.

Right about now, your mailbox is likely getting stuffed with holiday gift catalogs — thick, glossy and filled with thousands of items.

You love the holidays, but you’re increasingly tired of participating in the consumerism and waste that is so entwined with the season. Yet you don’t want to forgo gift-giving as you also love finding items that your children and other loved ones will enjoy. 

So, where does this leave you?

Enter the Buy Nothing Project (BNP), a gifting economy community that spans 44 countries and over 4 million participants. Through the BNP, neighbors give, receive, share, lend and express gratitude within a specific, hyper-local geographic community. 

Using the Buy Nothing Facebook Group or Buy Nothing app, community members can request specific items, fulfill specific requests or ask to borrow items. The BNP has significantly grown during the pandemic, and every single neighborhood in Seattle has its own Buy Nothing community. 

The only rule? Everything is free. 

Crescent Moegling, a founding member of the BNP, describes it as a “gift economy to build community, and strengthen relationships where they weren’t before.”

Heading into the holiday season, ask yourself: Do I need to only give items that are brand-new or purchased from a store? Moegling notes that, time and again, items are offered up on the BNP, and people request the item not for themselves, but because they want to gift it to someone else. 

People have different views about shopping or acquiring secondhand or pre-loved items, but overall, the practice seems to be increasing as we look for ways to reduce over-consumption, waste and environmental degradation. And the more people participate in practices meant to lessen our impact on the globe — like the BNP — the more normal these practices will become. 

You can include your children in the joy of giving and receiving through the BNP. Perhaps they have a long-unused toy set in the back of their closet, a jacket from last Christmas that didn’t ever quite fit right or a bookshelf overflowing with books. 

Use the BNP as a teaching tool for reusing, repurposing and recycling. 

Moegling shares a lesson she’s taught her son: “If we’re done with [an item] the value’s not gone; it can be for someone else.” This is a tangible experience your child can have as they participate in the giving economy through the BNP.

If you’re new to the Buy Nothing Project, it’s easy to join. You can simply download the App or search for your local group on Facebook. 

And then, simply begin offering items or requesting items from the community. 

Moegling encourages folks to jump right in. “There’s no gift that’s too big or too small. There’s no wrong ask,” she says. 

This year, the BNP is hosting a Holiday Challenge. The challenge instructions? “Rethink buying your gifts this holiday. Instead, ASK and GIVE from others in your local community.” 

It’s simple, really. Using the BNP app or Facebook page, post your holiday requests and the items that you have to give away. 

You could ask for some books for your niece, or a thermos for your camping-obsessed friend, or succulents for your officemate’s ever-growing collection. You could offer to give that fondue maker (the one that’s still in the original packaging from Christmas 2017), flower seed packets that you have never gotten around to planting or that huge box of craft supplies that has been collecting dust for years. 

You can participate in the BNP to help build up your local community — all while reducing your overall consumption this holiday season. 

More on reducing your consumption:

Create a backyard playground (for next to nothing!)

Overwhelmed with piles and piles of baby clothes?

How to get ready for baby without breaking the bank (or accumulating stuff)

About the Author

Ellie White

Ellie had the privilege of growing up in our beautiful Pacific Northwest. She currently lives in the Green Lake neighborhood with her husband and twin toddlers.