In the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond, Buy Nothing Project getting traction in gift giving game
Ski passes, couches, sunglasses, sourdough starter, even pine cones.
These are all items that have been offered or asked for in the Carbondale area Buy Nothing Facebook group, as more than 1,200 members offer their no-longer-needed wares to neighbors, all for free. Similar groups are centered around Glenwood Springs, Aspen and Rifle, across the country and the globe. Since 2013, these hyper-local gift exchanges have started sprouting up, the brainwork of Rebecca Rockefeller and part-time, potentially soon-to-be-full-time Carbondale resident Liesl Clark. On Black Friday — or as others call it, Buy Nothing Day — organizers of the Buy Nothing Project launched an app accruing more than 100,000 users over the past three weeks.
“We decided we’ve outgrown Facebook as a product because the groups are not really conducive to exactly what we need, which is all the features of a local gift economy that would really include ways for us to all connect with each other through sharing,” Clark said.
The project, inspired by the waste-reduction Buy Nothing movement, allows members to offer or request goods and services and provide gratitude to community members in a social-media style feed. To this point, local groups have focused on Facebook.
The new app functions similarly to a Facebook Marketplace, with modifiers for distance. The difference, Clark said, is in the app’s sense of community building, along with the mandate that all services, items and requests are for free.
Carbondale Buy Nothing admin Lynne Uhl says the project leads to longer conversations between gifters and recipients. All discussion about requests or offerings happens in the public view and it is up to the lister to decide who receives items.
“Somebody asked somebody to help her shovel her sidewalks, and they became good friends,” Uhl said. “A lot of women will exchange baby clothes, and they became really good friends. It’s just the whole point of this whole thing without people knowing it, is building community.”
In Facebook group counts, the Carbondale area’s population is three-fold greater than Rifle’s and almost four-fold greater than that of Glenwood Springs.
Clark lived in Aspen following college and bought her first home in El Jebel. She met her husband, renowned mountaineer Peter Athans, in Carbondale. Currently living on Bainbridge Island in Washington state, the couple bought a home back in the valley and has been plotting a return to Carbondale. It just so happens to be an area where her and Rockefeller’s idea has thrived.
“(The Carbondale group) really is the poster child for all Buy Nothing communities,” Clark said. “I was so excited when after a year and a half or so there was a group for the Roaring Fork Valley. It grew so readily I think it just became overpopulated.”
In its infancy, the app shows just over 40 members within 20 miles of Glenwood Springs, dipping into the Carbondale pool of participants. Small portions of the project’s Facebook users have begun the migration over to the dedicated platform, and the project has been covered by outlets like The New York Times.
In the holiday season, Uhl said the group doesn’t necessarily see an uptick in activity, but the content of requests and offerings change.
“It’s pretty steady all the time,” Uhl said. “This time of year you might have a few people ask for a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations or gift those things. Always, you’ll have people gifting or asking for costumes.”
So, it may not be the perfect platform for it, but if you’re in need of a last-minute gift, you may just be able to ask your neighbor.
Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or email@example.com.
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