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Buy Nothing Jamaica Plain: bones, bug bling, and beautiful community


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Buy Nothing groups across Boston model reuse and generosity, building relationships while they reduce waste.

We all have a story of stuff, heading to the store to get things we need and pitching out or passing on things we are done with. What if rather than throwing out so much, you were able to share it with a neighbor instead? Or find that weird item you need?

The Buy Nothing project is a community-based initiative that arose organically to meet this need. With over twenty groups in Boston neighborhoods today and growing, this initiative gives people a way to lend, share, and express gratitude as part of a network in which “true wealth is web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.”

Bug jewelryOne of the most active groups in Boston, Buy Nothing Jamaica Plain (JP), has over 2,000 members and averages over 150 posts a day. Postings are managed on Facebook. Items and requests run the gamut from the personal - wedding dresses - to the artistic - bugs carcasses to be crafted into jewelry - to the weird.

But, the best offerings according to member Julie are neighborly gestures of care. For example, when a new member moved to the neighborhood from Puerto Rico, members rallied to help them get set up. And, when a parent’s kid needed bones and teeth for a school presentation, over 100 neighbors responded with ones in all shapes and sizes.

“I’ve met so many of my neighbors that I would have never met if it were not for this project,” says Jamie, Buy Nothing JP member. “When I look around my home, I am reminded of all of the generous gifts the group has given me.”

Sharing produce

The group also occasionally invites its members to think about what they buy with challenges like a seven day “buy nothing challenge.” Could you go for seven days without visiting the store?

These exercises give people the opportunity to examine their lifestyle and tap into their community of neighbors in new ways. Sharing in community is such a big part of the group that neighbors who were once strangers are gathering this December for a Buy Nothing neighborhood holiday party.

How do reuse and sharing fit your story of stuff? Both practices are a part of the city’s journey towards zero waste. Waste less, live better, and make new friends. Will you join us?

This post is part of the Zero Waste Boston initiative. If you’d like to follow along as we discuss the ins and outs of going zero waste, you can subscribe to our general email list here. If you would like to receive periodic updates about the more technical side of the municipal waste management planning process, sign up here.