Friday, November 25, 2011

Buy Nothing Day - 2011

Is it possible for you to spend any day without spending? Have you ever tried it?

Well here is an opportunity.

Tomorrow happens to be the International Buy Nothing Day. It is observed every November 26 internationally and on November 25 in North America.

It is a global holiday from consumerism; spend a day without spending! Lock up your wallet, ignore your credit cards and dump the love of your life - shopping. It is a day where you challenge yourself, family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will deter from shopping. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending.

People around the United Kingdom and different parts of the world will make a pact with themselves to take a break from consumption as a personal experiment or public statement.

Everything we buy has an impact on the environment. Buy Nothing Day highlights the environmental and ethical consequences of consumerism. The developed countries - only 20 per cent of the world population are consuming over 80 per cent of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage, and an unfair distribution of wealth.

As consumers, we need to question the products we buy and challenge the companies who produce them. What are the true risks to the environment and developing countries? It is generally believed that recycling is okay for the environment, but consuming less is better and Buy Nothing Day is a great way to start.

According to its proponents, it is not about changing your lifestyle for just one day - it is expected to be a lasting relationship with your consumer conscience - maybe a life changing experience. People are encouraged to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging companies to clean up and be fair. The supermarket or shopping mall might offer great choice, but this should not be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.

A day of international protest against consumerism observed by social activists, it was founded in Vancouver by artist, Ted Dave. His idea of getting people to say no to shopping for one day has spread around the world. This year as every year since 1991, The Media Foundation and Adbusters (from British Columbia) are inviting consumers to give their desire to buy and buy and buy a rest, at least for 24 hours.

The first Buy Nothing Day was organised in Mexico in September 1992 as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.

In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called Black Friday, which is one of the 10 busiest shopping days in the United States. Participation now includes more than 65 nations. 

In observing the day, various gatherings, shenanigans and other forms of protest have been used to draw attention to the problem of over-consumption.

One of such is where participants stand in a shopping mall 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.

Zombie Walk: Participant ‘zombies’ wander around shopping malls or other consumer havens with a blank stare. When asked what they are doing explain through gesticulations.

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.

Wildcat general strike: A strategy used for the 2009 Buy Nothing Day where participants not only do not buy anything for 24 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.

Criticism: While critics of the day charge that it simply causes participants to buy the next day, Ad busters state 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.”

Activists commended a store in Ottawa for doing something to celebrate the day. The store stayed closed, a poster of the International Buy Nothing Day was placed in the window and the employees had a paid holiday. The year after that, they opened the shop and served cookies and coffee to the customers, but refused to make a sale. That sounded cool didn’t it?

A statement from the activists stated: “Come on, take the challenge! The last Friday in November is “International Buy Nothing Day”. People come on, show Mother Earth some respect! Don’t buy anything on that day, instead sit down in a chair and think to yourself, “Do I actually need this stuff I am buying?” You’ll be helping yourself as you help the planet.

To them being a consumer hero is all about standing up against the pressure to buy! Buy! Buy.

So, if you had a shop would you close down for the day? And as a consumer, would you sit still just for one day?

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