The Buy Nothing movement gains steam around the country

Until I read this article in the Washington Post by Maura Judkis, I had not heard of the Buy Nothing project. But it seems like a great idea, even if I dont have guinea pig poop to contribute:

It was not until after Angela Parker, 53, had raced across her north Atlanta neighborhood to nab eight leftover, thick-cut slices of ham with gravy from the porch of someone she didn’t know that she began to ask herself some questions. Was it weird to eat a stranger’s porch ham? Was it safe? Would the ham be worth it?

It was free, so — yes?

Parker had been alerted to the ham via her neighborhood’s Buy Nothing group, where people offer up their belongings to neighbors who might need or want them. The ham-givers had leftovers from a party, they said, and it was from Matthew’s Cafeteria, a legendary old-school Southern restaurant.

Sure enough, it was delicious. Well worth the (nonexistent) price.

“Ham’s my jam,” Parker says. “I enjoyed the heck out of it, on some Hawaiian bread.”

Meanwhile, in the Takoma Park area of D.C., Julie Patton Lawson, 44, posted a free item on her Buy Nothing group: 13 gallons of Guinea pig poop.

“They eat a lot of fiber, so they poop a lot,” says Lawson, who owns four Guinea pigs and is fostering seven others. She had been using their poop as occasional fertilizer in her garden, but with 11 Guinea pigs in the home she had more poop than she needed. Also, her dogs kept eating it. So Lawson decided to offer it up to her neighbors.

“Within an hour I had one inquiry, and she came and picked up that bag the next day,” she says. “I have other people asking me, ‘So when will you have your next bag?’”

There have always been scrappers and freecyclers prowling the curbsides on trash day for castoff furniture and other treasures. The people who think, “Someone could use this,” and the people who do. They are scrimpers and savers, environmentalists, neighborhood do-gooders, benevolent hoarders; people who love stuff and hate waste and have a high threshold for risk, or just a quirky sense of adventure.

Who wants this raccoon skull? This possibly haunted baby doll? This toilet seat? These three mismatched spoons? A landline phone shaped like a shoe?

The answer is, almost always, somebody. Especially if it’s free.

Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller started the Buy Nothing Project as an experiment on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. The idea was to encourage their neighbors to give away unwanted possessions instead of trashing them, and to take others’ things instead of buying something new and adding to the heaps of plastic junk circulating the globe. People can also use the app to ask if other people in their communities have a thing they need and would be willing to part with it — for free. That part is important. Members are prohibited from selling and trading, or even mentioning the monetary value of items.

Seems like a great idea, although if I were a woman I’d have second thoughts about racing over to a stranger’s place to pick something up from inside a house or apartment.

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