Buying nothing

What do a rock guitar, a humidifier, a piano, a small wood table with wheels, a turntable and whole-family Lego costumes have in common? These items were all offered for free during the last 24 hours on the “buy nothing” site for Amherst and Northampton (

This site provides people with a way to quickly get rid of things that are cluttering up their houses (and lives, and landfills). And it gives people an opportunity to save money by acquiring things for free, and also to ask for things they need. In the last 24 hours, members have asked for an upholstered chair, children’s poetry books, and an “off-white or pale yellow suit” plus scrap metal, a large plastic bowl and hot glue for an art project.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just past, co-founder Robin Jaffin of Amherst appeared on a local radio show on Tuesday night. She explained that the region’s buy-nothing site started just over a year ago and now has 1,356 members, growing only by word of mouth (and Facebook). It’s part of a worldwide movement with 300 groups (including ones in Beverly, Cambridge, Hamilton and Manchester, Mass.) and 80,000 members.

The buy-nothing movement takes “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” two steps further by adding Refuse and Rethink, Jaffin said. “The act of buying nothing is very powerful and everyone has it in their reach,” she said.

There are many alternatives to the wasteful practice of taking unneeded items to the landfill. In Amherst, there is the Survival Center, the “take it or leave it” area  at the recycling and transfer station, church fairs, two freecycle groups and the free category on Craig’s List. What distinguishes Buy Nothing is the opportunity to forge a personal connection between offerers and acquirers. As an example, Jaffin cited a dress that belonged to her mother that she recently found a new home for.

No money ever changes hands on buy-nothing sites, and there’s a ban on advertising there. Besides Jaffin, the administrators are Fern Spierer and Katie Costa.

On the same radio program with Jaffin, there was a phone interview with “Rev. Billy,” who has been leading demonstrations with his “Buy Nothing Gospel Choir” for many  years. They recently were in Ferguson, Mo., where a local slogan has been turned into “Hands up! Don’t Shop!”

Jaffin encouraged listeners to resist the pressure to consume this month and consider giving the gift of activism this Christmas.

“A gift economy’s real wealth is the people involved and the web of connections that forms to support them,” according to the Buy Nothing site.

3 thoughts on “Buying nothing

  1. Pingback: 100th post: Greatest hits | Adventures in the good life

  2. Pingback: A simple living index | Adventures in the good life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s