While the Friday after Thanksgiving is famous for hordes of frenzied crowds buying everything in sight, another tradition has been gaining ground in the United States and around the world — celebrating Buy Nothing Day.
This year marks the 23rd anniversary of Buy Nothing Day, which started as a small celebration in the Pacific Northwest and quickly grew. The modern international event is the brainchild of Adbusters, and is part of a weeklong “Carnivalesque Rebellion” the social activist organization promotes every year to replace Black Friday with what many believe is a better tradition.
The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in September 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” In recent years, AdBusters had gone to great lengths to promote the day, even attempting to buy television airtime in 2000, when almost every major network refused to run their ads other than CNN, the Guardian reported. Even CNN only agreed to run the ad one time late at night, and that was after being told that a refusal would lead to an embarrassing story in the Wall Street Journal.
AdBusters says that society members can take a first step towards fixing personal and economic crises by pledging to take part in Buy Nothing Day.
“Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times.
“The journey towards a sane sustainable future begins with a single step. It could all start with a personal challenge, such as this: make a vow to yourself to participate in Buy Nothing Day this year.”
While many shoppers challenge the notion that it will do any good to stop shopping for just one day, Adbusters says Buy Nothing Day “isn’t just about changing your habits for one day, but about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment to consuming less and producing less waste.”
Some of the ways that consumers have participated in Black Friday Day in the past have included sit-ins, free (non-commercial) street parties, public protests, Buy Nothing Day hikes in nature, Buy Nothing Critical Mass bike rides, and a Buy Nothing Day paddle along the notoriously consumptive San Francisco waterfront. Some Buy Nothing Day events also involve credit card cut-ups, where participants stand in public shopping areas with pairs of scissors and posters that advertises help for people who want to put an end to mounting debt and high interest rates by having their credit cards cut in half.
Other Buy Nothing Day events are more creative. For Buy Nothing Day “Whirl-marts,” participants silently steer their shopping carts around a shopping mall or store in long, surreal lines without putting anything in the carts or actually making any purchases. For Buy Nothing Day zombie walks, participating “zombies” wander around shopping malls and mass market stores with blank stares, telling shoppers about Buy Nothing Day if they are asked what they’re doing.
In yet another Buy Nothing Day event of the past, the 2009 Wildcat General Strike, participants not only did 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.
Some states also take part in winter coat exchanges for Buy Nothing Day. States such as Rhode Island, Kentucky, Utah, and Oregon sponsor events for the day in which coats are collected from anyone who wants to donate, and anyone who needs a winter coat is welcome to take one.
Buy Nothing Day is celebrated on Black Friday in North America, Great Britain, and Sweden. Elsewhere around the world, it is held the following day, which is the last Saturday in November.
Advocates of Buy Nothing Day say that it is not anybody’s civic duty to buy lots of things and accrue lots of debt. They also point out that the best option for local communities is to buy locally if you’re planning on making purchases.
Those who pledge to take part in Buy Nothing Day can take part in community events instead, or choose to do something special to mark the occasion at home.
What about you? Do you plan on taking part in Buy Nothing Day?
[Featured Image by Rick Bowmer/AP Images]