November 23, 2012

Buy Nothing Day 2012

Today is BND in North America, a day chosen to coincide with one of the most manic shopping days in the conspicuous consumption calender, the dreaded Black Friday. Tomorrow, Saturday, November 24, is Buy Nothing Day internationally.

Here at NBA we have elevated Buy Nothing Day to holiday status. Actually, it is our favourite day - it's the only one where you're 'obligated' to not buying anything.

By celebrating the start of the Buy Nothing Holiday Season one can start to think differently about the real meaning of our existence beyond shopping. Are we really just consumers?

There is a reason the people went from citizens to consumers in the eyes of our lame leaders. A great part of industrialized economies are made up of what us ex-citizens buy in our new role as money making and money spending zombies. Consumers fulfilling their shopping obligations in the US accounts for about 70% of GDP, a situation that is reflected in many other consumer nations.

That we buy, and continue buying, is more important than any of the things we used to do as citizens, like vote, participate in  our community, work for the greater good, and speak out in the face of injustice. It is now much easier to fulfill your responsibilities to the state, and be patriotic - just keep on shopping.

If we even so much as slow down our pace of spending as consumers, the wheels start coming off the economic wagon immediately. The consumer spending based economy must grow infinitely or die. We can't slow down in our efforts to buy things, few of which are necessities, or misery for the masses is sure to follow. Or so we are told.

So we work at McJobs, to buy stuff we can't afford, to keep the economic beast fed, so we don't lose our McJobs. Of course the jobs don't pay enough to cover all spending, so we go into debt to buy the stuff we don't need. Canadians, for example, spend $1.63 for every dollar they earn.

Wow. What a system.

It is a wonder that people aren't bailing from this guaranteed-to-fail-model in droves.

Buy Nothing Day is a time to reflect on the global effects of a model based on over-consumption, and the wars that are required to maintain it. A time to think about the exploitative global system that promotes conspicuous wasteful practices in order to provide profit to a select few.

As a celebration of anti-consumption, BND emphasizes being debt free, spending time with family, getting in touch with nature, and supporting more efficient local economies.

Here are a few ways to participate in Buy Nothing Day. They range from active and in-your-face, to more passive and contemplative.
  • Credit card cut up: Participants stand in a shopping mall, shopping center, or store with a pair of scissors and a poster that advertises help for people who want to put an end to mounting debt and extortionate interest rates with one simple cut.
  • Free, non-commercial street parties
  • Sit-ins
  • Zombie Walk: Participant "zombies" wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing participants describe Buy Nothing Day.
  • Whirl-mart: Participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in a long, baffling conga line without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases.
  • Public protests
  • Wildcat General Strike: A strategy used for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day where participants not only do not buy anything for twenty-four hours but also keep their lights, televisions, computers and other non-essential appliances turned off, their cars parked, and their phones turned off or unplugged from sunrise to sunset.
  • Buy Nothing Day hike: Rather than celebrating consumerism by shopping, participants celebrate the Earth and nature.
  • Buy Nothing Critical Mass: As the monthly Critical Mass bicycle ride often falls on this day or near, rides in some cities acknowledge and celebrate Buy Nothing Day.
  • Buy Nothing Day paddle along the San Francisco waterfront. This event is promoted by the Bay Area Sea Kayakers to kayak along the notoriously consumptive San Francisco waterfront.
  • The Winter Coat Exchanges that started in Rhode Island and now have locations in Rhode Island, Kentucky, Utah and Oregon in which coats are collected from anyone who wants to donate, and anyone who needs a winter coat is welcome to take one.  - Wikipedia
Other activities could include taking a brown bag picnic, playing games with the family (ones that don't require electricity), reading a book, taking a nap, visiting a neighbour, sharing a meal, and going unplugged and playing acoustic instruments in a jam with others. The possibilities are endless once you stop thinking about spending and shopping.

But will BND make a difference?

Adbusters, the Canadian anti-consumerism magazine that was instrumental in getting BND going, states that it "isn't just about changing your habits for one day" but "about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.

This is the Anti-Black Friday mentality. Call it White Friday. It is our opportunity to turn from the dark side of debt, waste, guilt, and environmental destruction, and embrace the white light of rational thinking.


  1. Anonymous11/23/2012

    Excellent post. Just heard today that Americans are in more credit card debt than ever in history. Have we learned nothing? How people can continue to shop for stuff they don't need and pay for it with money they don't have is beyond my comprehension.

  2. namakemono11/24/2012

    Wow, that photo is really powerful!

  3. My husband and I don't participate in the economy any more than necessary. We don't see it as a charity that needs our support. We don't feel sorry for it. The poor thing will have to "struggle along" without us this year. Not only are we buying zero Christmas this year, we are buying nothing but our food and a tankful of gas until after the new year. Scrooges? You'd best believe it. Are we "MERRY"? Yes we are! Hee-hee-hee.

    1. Julie - thanks for sharing your plans for a not buying anything Christmas.

      Are you merry? Yes!

      Are you free? Yes!

      THAT is something to celebrate.


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