Can You Change the World by Buying Nothing?

three friends jumping in air and laughing

While many consider it a holiday tradition to fight the crush of crowds on Black Friday, others are working around the globe to counteract the effects of consumerism. And they are doing that by doing nothing.

Buy Nothing Day is a movement launched in 1992 that aims to get consumers to buy less — or buy nothing at all — on what is considered the busiest shopping day of the year. Twenty-one years after it was launched in Vancouver, British Columbia, by artist Ted Dave, it is observed in 65 countries around the world.

Buy Nothing Day takes place the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Canada, which falls on Nov. 29 this year, and on the following day elsewhere around the world. Promoted by Adbusters magazine, organizers insist it is not anti-Christmas or even anti-shopping; it is simply designed to make consumers pause and rethink their spending habits and the effect those habits have on the environment.

“It’s not shopping in itself that’s so harmful, it’s what we buy,” says information released by Adbusters. “As consumers, we should question the products we buy and the companies who produce them.”

They say that the day represents an opportunity to commit to consuming less and recycling more.

While no hard numbers exist on the effects it is having on consumerism, Kalle Lasn, editor-in-chief for Adbusters, claims that more than 1 million people participate in the event worldwide. Buy Nothing Day started becoming more popular in 1999 when the Internet provided a valuable way for participants to connect, organize events and share ideas for celebrating Buy Nothing Day.

However, the National Retail Federation projects that retail sales in the U.S. will be up 3.9 percent this holiday season, raking in an estimated $602.1 billion.

Feature photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

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