November 18, 2016

Buy Nothing?

In spite of the name of this blog, I have to ask, is it at all possible to buy nothing? Even for 24 hours, as many will be trying to do one week from today during Buy Nothing Day? Talk about a challenge.

Unless you are living in a totally self-sufficient setting (which is difficult, but possible), one pretty much is a slave to our "you-must-pay-for-everything" existence. They will find a way to monitize one of the last hold outs, the very air we breathe, one day.

I imagine in the near future a "Big Air" CEO will be stating publicly that he didn't think that breathing was a basic human right, and therefore the little people should be charged for consuming this valuable privately-owned resource.

In preparation for Buy Nothing Day, Linda and I were discussing if we could make it through that one 24 hour period without buying anything. It was a little frustrating.

In order to buy absolutely nothing on November 25 (shopping-oriented blogs call this day Black Friday) we could not buy any power from the utility. For us, like many people dependent on the grid, that would mean no electricity. That would also mean no heat, because our pellet stove requires electricity to work.

Then we thought about our vehicle, for which we pay insurance and registration. Each and every day of the year we are buying a few dollars of permission and protection for our van so we can drive it two or three times a month.

I would love to have a pure, unblemished by commerce Buy Nothing Life, but as we found out, that is difficult to achieve in the modern world, even for 24 hours. However, I can't think of a better goal to work toward, and that is what Buy Nothing Day reminds me of each year.

One more week and let's celebrate the non-commercial life, unbound and free, in any way we can. And no, I am not changing the name of this blog to "Not Buying Just About Anything That They Want Me To Buy", even though it may be more accurate.

Wishing you a simple weekend. Remember to breathe deep while it is still free.


  1. My spending follows a simple rule. I buy basic utilities, but often take cold showers year round wash dishes with cold water due to not using oil. I have followed your fine example in giving up toilet paper and would never go back.
    I buy clothes which are mostly fair trade. Buy barefoot shoes to wear and when they wear out I use then as slippers.
    Food is always vegan and we buy local if we can, no junk food.
    Entertainment is from the library and just this amazing planet.
    I also have to factor in work expenses.
    That is my consumption. Much has been donated to me for which I'm grateful.
    Thank you to Bangladesh, Ethiopia and the Philippines for pledging to go carbon neutral.

  2. Alex,

    Lowering the impact of our ecological footprint can be done, as your example shows. I do like my hot showers, though. That being said, I do not shower daily. More like weekly.

    Thanks for the shout out to the countries that have committed to going 100% renewables. I was not aware of this till reading your comment. Awesome! Close to 50 countries, including some of the poorest, are going carbon neutral. We can help.

    Lowering consumption lowers carbon footprints. Thank you to all the low simple living, low-carbonistas like yourself (and many others that visit this blog) that are taking real steps towards a new/old way of living on our beautiful planet.

    1. The cold showers are more for health and is classic Himalayan practice, haven't got the willpower to do it all the time. Work sometimes means I need to wash more than I would like. The cold water seems to aid clarity. Went for a walk this morning with great company and tomorrow is 5k run time, both are free.

    2. The cold showers... I was "forced" to take them a few weeks ago because the building I'm living in had some maintenance work ongoing so for 3 days I had no hot water. The water was quite cold because outside it was around 0-5 Celsius but I did manage to clean myself (have to do it once a day because of work). I got used to it and now I take much colder showers than before.

    3. I find it can be harder to have hot showers now. They can make me feel sleepy afterwards. The cold showers release beta endorphins that are rather powerful. The cold water also helps to regulate mood and speeds recovery after exercise. Also never wash my hair with soap or shampoo and just use ordinary soap instead of shaving foam.

  3. At first I thought "that's easy" but then you listed all the things we buy everyday without thinking. Hmmm difficult to avoid, but good to think about how you might.

    1. Liz,

      The "think about" part is really important. Shopping is so normalized in consumer societies that it is easy, and encouraged, to do it without thinking. The people who want us to shop, don't want us to think.

  4. I made several decisions some years ago to have lower carbon footprint and also not spending so much so I could work less.

    I don't own a car and don't even have driving licence so public transportation is a must for me. Girlfriend has got her car to drive to her job and we also use it to go to the grocery store and visit our parents.

    I shower every other day at most in winter even less. I guess if I did not go to work I would shower even less often.

    In grocery store we also buy mainly basic stuff and some candies for kids on occasion. :)

    After our TV was broken we did not want to buy new. Kids play so much more now and don't even miss it after some time. We also get to talk to each other much more time.

    This transformation to lower carbon footprint and less spending lifestyle is not over yet, it is an ongoing process. There are a lot of things which I could do better and I am working on it, but even now life seems so much calmer and less complicated.


    1. Mitja,

      It is very liberating to break free from the work-spend-work more-spend more cycle, and live more authentically. I love the calmer, less complicated life, and think that it makes for healthier humans. It sounds like it is working for you and your family. Better life, lower carbon footprint - hard to see the downside.

  5. Well there I was feeling proud of myself for observing "Buy Nothing Day" for several years now, and you point out that I really am buying something. Guess pride truly does go before a fall! :-)

    Good reminder that no matter how much we try to avoid commerce of any sort, it's hard to get away from, and not really possible in my case. It's good to think about what else I can cut back on or stop altogether.

    1. Miss Marla,

      It is not really possible for most people in so-called advanced societies. We have become slaves to the concepts of money and private property, both of which are fairly recent phenomena. It is a rare person these days that can operate outside the bounds of the formal economy.

      But there are ways it can be done, and cutting back on, or quitting, unnecessary spending is one way. But even a very simple, basic life in a consumer society can be expensive. It is a tough challenge. For example, I am going to the dentist tomorrow. Argh.

      There are no budget dentists - they all charge exactly the same. Where is the competition? Is this a fee market or not? I actually have heard of one budget dentist - he got shut down by the dental cops, even though he was providing care to many who could no otherwise afford it.

      I am sure you can be proud of your low-consumption lifestyle. We do what we can.

  6. Isn't it interesting how working causes us to use so many more resources and spend so much more time and money just to work?
    I just worked 6 or 7 days a week for the better part of 3 months. I'm blown away at how much more it costs to live when I work like that. More showers, more car expenses, appropriate clothes, more expensive food because I didn't have time to prepare proper meals.

    The whammy is I have to work to provide food, clothing and shelter since I'm a long way from being self-contained/ self-sufficient.

    The trouble is money. Or our current monetary system.

    Impossible for me to live a day without spending money because of rent for housing. Yet I do go many days and spend no money. That doesn't fully count if we get nitty griddy about it because I eat food I've previously bought, etc. life is hard! I do the best I can and try and live with the smallest footprint.

    I learn a lot from you, Alex. Thanks for info about cold showers.

    1. Terri,

      You bring up a lot of good points about how working can cost one a lot of money. So many expenses are difficult, if not impossible to avoid. It is a hard loop to break free from. I think the only way we can do it is if we take care of each other more. Because life IS hard, any way you look at it. We need to be as self-contained/self-sufficient as possible as individuals and communities. I know you do a lot.

      I also learn a lot from Alex, and all you other wonderful commenters.


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