Community Trading Posts Reduce Waste

Take Care of Texas
assorted items arranged for yard sale, sign modified to say "free sale"

Half a dozen of my neighbors gathered on a residential driveway late on a Sunday morning. We each unloaded our cars, full to the brims with clothing, books, household items, and electronics, for what might appear to most as a yard sale. But this was no sale—everything was free! It was our inaugural Buy Nothing Project yard sale. Considering that this was the first such event, the slow stream of neighbors who visited to claim offered items made it a success. Remaining items were taken home or donated to a thrift store if they were deemed worthy of donation.

You can free yourself from clutter, save a ton of landfill space, and build community by helping a neighbor in need using these community trading post ideas!

Buy Nothing Groups

The Buy Nothing Project officially began in 2013 to connect neighbors who have items to give and who want a low-waste alternative to buying new items. In theory, every item given represents one fewer item in the waste stream, and one fewer new item purchased—plus the packaging and freight associated with it. Additionally, these interactions build community through mutual aid and personal connections.

This phenomenon now reaches millions of people in dozens of countries. You can find a hyper-local Buy Nothing Project page on Facebook or the BNP app. A cursory glance at my local BNP Facebook group shows neighbors offering up toys and children’s clothes, furniture, uneaten pet food from fussy pets, home décor, tools, books, and many other items. It also features requests from neighbors looking for items to have or borrow, such as tools, cooking utensils, and art project materials.

Free Little Library

Free roadside library boxWe all love books and magazines for entertainment and information, but most of the printed material we purchase is enjoyed only once. The Free Little Library movement has taken off in recent years, so you’ve probably seen one in your neighborhood. Each of these mini libraries is an informal, 24/7 trading post where anyone can deposit free books for others to read or pick up free reading material without the pressure of purchasing or returning it. Find the nearest registered Free Little Library, or build your own free-standing library if you’re feeling crafty.

The Freecycle Network

Freecycle is a non-profit, grass-roots community organization that started in 2003, and is based around listings on Freecycle members join for free and must give and receive only free items on the platform. Items given away can be virtually anything, so long as they are legal and suitable for all ages. By finding homes for unwanted items, Freecycle has prevented untold volumes of trash in landfills and provided people with things they want or need at no cost.

Host a “Free Yard Sale”

items on table at yard saleAmericans love yard sales. They can be a terrific way to make a few bucks while unloading unwanted items from your home, and a fun excursion for bargain-hunters. But hosting a garage sale can often feel like more trouble than it’s worth if you don’t like haggling and you can’t find enough shoppers to sell your goods.

Instead, take all the items you want to get rid of and host a “free-sale” in your yard. Even better, invite your neighbors to bring over their unwanted items, too, and distribute them together during a predetermined time. You can advertise this event in your neighborhood newsletter, local Nextdoor page, or Facebook neighborhood groups. Good old-fashioned hand-painted cardboard signs placed at strategic street corners are also a great idea. Be sure that participants plan to take back the items they can’t give away or arrange for them to be donated elsewhere after the event.

If you’re looking for a way to cut down on clutter and reduce waste at the same time, consider these (and other ways) you can make a neighbor’s day by giving it away! Remember: one person’s trash might be another person’s treasure.

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