These conversations have value, Mr. Kruggel said, even when no one is persuaded. “People connect across race, sexual identity, gender, class and geography,” he said, which can be an effective experience for volunteers and voters alike.
Ms. Weighill said she had been transformed by many of the conversations she had had on issues ranging from public safety to racial equality, particularly those that started out “emotionally charged,” as with the North Carolina voter. “Once people realize you’re not there to argue, they let their guard down,” she said. “You really end up hearing each other.” DAVID DODGE
‘Buy Nothing,’ and Give a Lot
On a quiet night in December, Joanne McClain opened the door to her apartment and placed six plastic containers with neighbors’ names on them into the hallway. Each held a slice of almond-flour cake with pear, pistachio and rose. Ms. McClain had received nine pounds of pistachios from her dad, and had tried a new recipe. It came out amazingly well, but there was no way she could eat a whole cake, she said: “I just had an abundance of ingredients and wanted to share.”
The cake became a “give” on Ms. McClain’s local “Ask, Borrow, Give” group — part of a larger movement, called Buy Nothing, that connects people offering free stuff to their neighbors as a way to lessen waste through repurposing. For many, it’s better to give clothes, household items and even unwanted food to neighbors than to send them to donation centers, which can only resell a fraction of what they get. The main rule is that everything must be given free: no buying, selling, trading or bartering.
The Buy Nothing Project is an international network of local gifting groups that began when two friends living on Bainbridge Island in Washington created an experimental hyperlocal gift economy in 2013. The movement now has more than four million members in 44 countries around the world and has grown by a third over the past year, said Liesl Clark, one of the founders.
“It’s not so much about buying nothing,” she noted, “as it is about throwing nothing away.”
The project will soon introduce an app that will help connect givers and seekers in any place, not just communities with organized Buy Nothing Facebook groups. “If you’re going to throw it away, why not give it a second life?” Ms. Clark said.
The list of gives on one local Santa Monica, Calif., group varied widely. Mushy bananas for banana bread. A play date with a potbellied pig. Potted succulents. Someone to talk to. Winter gear for a 2-year-old. Feta cheese, mistakenly purchased after a family member asked for “fitted sheets.” Lemons and bay leaves from a neighbor’s backyard.