Around Town

An Online Forum Spreading Good Will

Warren's chapter of the Buy Nothing Project builds relationships and finds new homes for old belongings

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No such thing as a free lunch? Maybe not, but at various spots in the East Bay, you can get goods and services for free, and meet new friends to boot.

In January, Ric and Carol Wild launched the Warren chapter of an international movement called the Buy Nothing Project. The concept is simple: Through a Facebook group, members obtain goods and services from one another, simply by asking or offering. No money or bartering is allowed. Each group encompasses a small geographic area, usually one town or a city neighborhood. There are Buy Nothing chapters in Coventry and Pawtucket and one encompassing Newport and Middletown, in addition to the chapter in Warren.

Many of the goods given away are baby items and children’s toys, but members can ask for anything they need. In Warren, one member asked for decor for a cowboy-themed party and was flooded with responses. Members also trade services such as shoveling a senior’s driveway and tutoring. The moments of exchange allow members to build relationships: “They’ll come over to drop off the item and you’ll get to know a neighbor that you might not have met otherwise,” Ric says. He grew the group to 250 members in less than six months by passing out business cards at the coffee shop where he works and writing a letter to the editor of his local newspaper.

Part of a movement pushing consumers to buy local, Buy Nothing, for the Wilds, is less about saving money than about connecting with the people you see every day but otherwise might never meet. And they’d rather give something they no longer need to their neighbors than to Savers or the dump. At a time when there’s less faith in government, says Ric, it’s reassuring to know that neighbors can help.