Meet the Canadian Inuit community dedicated to ‘buy nothing’

Lori Rudyk, an elementary school teacher in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, started a Buy Nothing group in her community of 1,500 people this year. The group gives and lends items to community members for free. (Submitted by Lori Rudyk)
It’s the season to buy, buy, buy — but one woman in a small Nunavut community, in the Canadian Arctic, says she and her community already have enough.

Lori Rudyk, an elementary school teacher in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, started the territory’s first ‘Buy Nothing’ group earlier this year — a worldwide campaign to gather people within a certain geographic boundary to freely share anything — from a bowl of soup to toddler clothes.

Happiness is in the giving.

Lori Rudyk , founder of Buy Nothing Kugluktuk

“I just have an overwhelming feeling that there’s more than enough in my home and there’s enough in the community,” said Rudyk. “We just need to find it and we need to ask for it.”

Many northern communities already have buy and sell pages dedicated to exchanging goods. But the buy nothing campaign is a bit different in that everything is free, said Rudyk.

Kugluktuk’s Buy Nothing Facebook group really started booming at the end of the summer.

On the private page, people have posted about giving away a little girl’s sparkly tulle dress, beaded mukluks, Christmas trees, and even two extra plates of fresh filleted char seasoned with lemon, herbs and rice on the side. A grandmother also asked to borrow a high chair for two weeks while her grand-daughter visits.

Already, about a fifth of the population of Kugluktuk, which has about 1,500 people, are part of the movement.

Rudyk, who’s lived in Kuglutuk since 1999, said this kind of sharing is not new to Inuit. In fact, it’s “embedded in the culture,” said Rudyk.

But now, people have an online forum exclusively for it.

50th birthday resolution to declutter
Rudyk says happiness is in giving. (Submitted by Lori Rudyk)

Rudyk said she made a resolution for her 50th birthday to buy less clothes and to give away at least one thing every day.

She described the journey as getting off a hamster wheel of always wanting to buy more. It’s been difficult to follow at times, but she said starting the group stemmed from striving for this lifestyle.

“I realize in my own life, I’ve been looking for some kind of happiness in acquiring more and more and more, and that’s not where the happiness is,” said Rudyk.

“Happiness is in the giving and happiness is in the relationships that you build in giving.”

With only three retail stores, the northern community is also benefiting from the page.

People are interacting more in town.

Andrea Niptanatiak , member of Buy Nothing Kugluktuk

Though this project is a global one, running it in a smaller remote community is special.

“It’s more personal because you recognize the names,” she said. “In a smaller place, it’s less about meeting your neighbours, but it’s more about being of support to each other.”

About a fifth of the population of Kugluktuk is a part of the community’s Buy Nothing group. (Submitted by Lori Rudyk)

Andrea Niptanatiak said she was looking for a nice summer jacket for work, and was gifted a leather one from Rudyk after joining the group.

“I put it to good use. It was very special to me,” said Niptanatiak. Since then, she has gifted and received several things from others. Niptanatiak said it’s good to know unwanted items for one person could be recycled by another.

“There’s so much people out there that that care for others,” she said. “People are interacting more in town.”

Like Christmas all year

Rudyk said since starting the group, many community members have thanked her in person or online. She said it’s like Christmas all year.

“People show that kind of excitement about their gifts, both in the giving and receiving.”

Rudyk said she hopes other communities in the North will be inspired and start a group too.

“People helping people with no expectation for something in return — I really do love it,” said Rudyk. “We already have enough. We just need to get it to the people who need it.”

Related links from around the North:

Canada: Canada to boost subsidies on flour, frozen fruit in major Nutrition North update, CBC News

Finland: Vegan ham flying off Finnish shelves for Christmas, Yle News

Norway: Fewer Russians doing cross-border shopping in Northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: New farm bill program aims to fight food insecurity in Alaska, Alaska Public Media

Priscilla Hwang, CBC News

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