Meet Your City: Our Sharing Economy

Artwork by Miguel Jose Matos


Call it what you want — sharing, gifting, being neighborly — increasingly Hartford residents are showing interest in no-strings-attached giving, the kind you might not be able to write off on your taxes.

There are at least seven Little Free Libraries throughout the city that facilitate the giving and taking of books without time limits, late fees, or proof of identification. On Laurel Street (a few houses north of the intersection with Hawthorne Street) there’s a food pantry that operates similarly; anyone can donate food items and anyone can pick up, day or night, without any kind of hassle. It’s becoming less rare to find knit scarves and mittens tied to trees and fences downtown with messages encouraging people to go ahead and take them. Keep Hartford Warm collects and distributes winter clothing items to those in need.

Now, residents of some Hartford neighborhoods have another way to give and receive. The Buy Nothing Project, with its new group currently open to those living in Downtown, Frog Hollow, South Green, and the Sheldon/Charter Oak neighborhoods, provides the opportunity for people to ask with no obligation to give. Jane Macy-Painter, the admin of this hyper-local group, says she learned about the Buy Nothing Project’s larger network “and realized there wasn’t one local to the city.”

On the surface it may seem like the group has a million rules, but what it comes down to is be local, be an adult, and give without expectation of anything in return — whether that means money or barter.

Of this concept, Macy-Painter says, “it’s wonderful from an environmental point of view, in that fewer things are sent to the landfill. But it can serve other purposes as well, not the least of which is building community.”

The City of Hartford, attempting to be more efficient in its bulky waste collection, has set new limits this year. Much of what gets dumped on the curb can be reused or repurposed; gifting large items keeps them out of the landfill and from being smashed up on the side of the road creating litter before garbage day.

The Buy Nothing Project “perfectly blends my natural frugality with hating to let things go to waste!” Macy-Painter said. “My goal is to use [the Buy Nothing Project] to simplify our lives, reduce clutter and possessions, though I suppose if you’re looking to ratchet up your hoarding it’d be good for that too.”

This project extends beyond sharing physical objects. Services can be given or requested. For instance, you could ask someone to teach you how to weld or offer up the empty seat in your car if you’re headed to the airport.  Asking for a place to bury your dog is allowed. You can get weird with it, as long as you keep it legal.

It comes back to building community, Macy-Painter says, “which of course has a snowball effect. More empathy, less crime.”
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