In the Blog

Warming up for “Buy Nothing Day”

October 17th, 2006     by Catherine Hayday     Comments

Nicole’s post on the “Red” campaign reminded me of an important holiday that’s just around the corner. Nope, not Hallowe’en, but Buy Nothing Day (November 23rd).

Celebrated on the day after American Thanksgiving (one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the US), Buy Nothing Day is a “concentrated display of consumer power”, demonstrated by not consuming. It is loosely structured around the idea that the “First World” is far too shopping-centric, and that we could stand to take (at least) one day off to consider the implications and alternatives to that way of life.

Buy Nothing Day is a Canadian concoction (that’s right you proud Canucks, hug that moose and say something in French). It is the brainchild of Vancouver artist Ted Dave and has been carried on and promoted by Adbusters magazine.

One of the best parts of Buy Nothing Day (BND) is that you can (and are encouraged) to fill-in-the-blanks for yourself. If you’re on board with the basic premise (overconsumption = bad), you can define how and what you want to do about it – and share your ideas with others (BND is celebrated in Canada and internationally).

It can be surprisingly hard to observe Buy Nothing Day. The less “seeing-the-world-the-way-it-could-be” among us may give you a hard time, or you might surprise yourself with how unconscious your consuming can be. This will be my third year of marking Buy Nothing Day, and I’ve been surprised each year with the resistance to the concept (from others, and from me). This has mostly taken the form of people nitpicking the “rules” of Buy Nothing Day, as in: “So if I have to buy groceries, does that mean I didn’t observe Buy Nothing Day?”; “What if I get a coffee?”; “You take the TTC to work, that means you bought something…”. But it has also been me sabotaging myself with the false urgency of shopping (“if I don’t get it today, they’ll be out of it by tomorrow!”). Or finding myself at an online store with that book I’ve been wanting in my basket, mouse hovering over the “Complete Checkout!” button before my brain can return and kick me for forgetting the BND occasion…

One of the ways to head that off is planning in advance, and participating even more explicitly. Get a group of friends together who are going to mark this with you. Volunteer to hook up with a group already doing something in your area. Adbusters hosts a web campaign headquarters to encourage the submission and coordination on your ideas for how to celebrate/mark/rabble rouse. They’re ramping up for 2006 now, and you can drop them an email at and let them know what you’re going to do (plans, posters, photos). There is also a newsletter you can sign up for which will help you stay informed on what’s going on in your area.

You can check out the ideas and successes of last year’s events at Adbuster’s 2005 BND page. For further inspiration, here’s a link to one of Adbuster’s Buy Nothing Day ads on YouTube. And finally, the international BND site tagline sums up the whole idea rather nicely: “The one day a year we turn off the economy and talk about it.”

Buy Nothing Day header

Tags: activist report, news flash

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