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The Buy Nothing Project has reached Kalamazoo

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A social media movement designed to promote "gifting" is spreading like wildfire and just reached Kalamazoo.

The Buy Nothing Project promotes the concept of a "gift economy," using Facebook as a means of connecting neighbors to give things away to each other for free.

The idea began with National Geographic filmmaker Liesl Clark, who visited the Himalayas and stumbled upon a village that lived cash-free.

Clark noticed the people in the village operated under a "gift economy"; families gifted away what they no longer needed and the ripple-effect of constant gifting kept the community afloat.

Clark and her friend Rebecca Rockefeller launched the Buy Nothing Project in Washington in 2013.

The movement has since spread to 500 cities in 11 countries.

The Kalamazoo groups launched in September, with the help of local volunteer admin Cassie Kroupa.

Kroupa says she wanted to participate in Buy Nothing but did not have a local chapter to join, so she formed two herself: Kalamazoo East and Kalamazoo West.

"It's split down the middle of Kalamazoo County," Kroupa explains. "Westnedge is the dividing point."

Participation is simple: ask to join your local Buy Nothing Project group on Facebook, then start posting.

Posts can contain either something you'd like to give away or something you'd like to request.

Kroupa says it's helpful to include photos of what you're giving away, so people can visualize the offer.

"This is someone giving away baby food," Kroupa says as she reads recent posts. "And here's another. Looking for some pants for her husband. He only has one pair."

Instead of throwing things out or selling them, the goal is to gift them to a neighbor.

The Facebook groups are designed to serve a small area, to make gifting easier.

"That was nice. It wasn't too far from my house," reflects a recent member of the Kalamazoo West group, Brynn Wade. "I could drop it off on the way somewhere."

Wade, a mother of three, says gifting is a great way to de-clutter your home.

"I've given away a few things: a co-sleeper, a puzzle and a talking stuffed dog," Wade says. "It's more important to give it to somebody who needs it than make five dollars selling it."

If you join a Buy Nothing group, there are really only three rules: Keep it legal. Keep it civil. And keep it cash-free.

"You can't offer to pay for anything. You can't ask for money," explains Kroupa.

Kroupa believes the "buy nothing" mentality could radically change the way we live.

"We live in a world that's very behind the screen," Kroupa says, "and though this starts behind the screen, I'm hoping to go beyond the screen. It's all about connection, connecting with our neighbors. It breaks the barrier down."

To promote safety, Kroupa recommends meeting fellow gifters in public places to exchange items.

There are currently three West Michigan groups: Kalamazoo East, Kalamazoo West and Barry County.

If you'd like to learn more about the Buy Nothing Project, click here.