Buy Nothing Day, Here and Gone

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who has worked in international and community development, and is currently trying to figure out how to connect the local with the global in her everyday life.

November 27 was Buy Nothing Day in North America. It passed by without much attention in Ottawa. But at least I can say I didn’t buy anything.

Or can I?

I didn’t spend any cash that day. No paper, coins or credit cards came out of my wallet. But my financial transactions continued.

On Buy Nothing Day, I still consumed electricity, water and heat, and was charged for them. I used bus tickets, purchased a couple of months ago. I ate food that I bought earlier in the week. I used my phone, cell phone and internet connections, all of which I’m paying for monthly.

Buy Nothing Day definitely made me think about how tied in I am to a financial system that doesn’t even need my active involvement. Maybe that’s the point. Adbusters would say I should also be turning off my computer and lights – the only way to draw attention to our default mode, consumption.

Still, Buy Nothing Day’s message is largely negative – don’t buy, don’t consume. Good to think about, but hard to engage people. What if it were about Doing Something as well? Are there alternatives to purchasing and consuming that we can participate in, to remind ourselves that there are other aspects to life? What about:

  • Spending time with friends and family, taking a walk in the woods or neighbourhood, reading a book, talking to our kids and to each other about having less stuff?
  • Trading or giving away something (e.g. on Ottawa Freecycle / Ottawa Full Circles), or finding a reuse for something no longer useful?
  • Volunteering — for a favourite organisation, or through Volunteer Ottawa (click on “I want to volunteer”)?
  • Writing a letter to an MP on climate change or another issue (for tips see David Suzuki’s website)?

I’ve been impressed by the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s campaign called “A Dare To Remember,” in which people commit to doing something brave or crazy or fun, to raise attention and funds for addressing HIV/AIDS in Africa. It’s a great way to capture people’s imaginations, and to prompt lots of people to do something, in their own way, to generate awareness about an issue. Maybe some lessons here?

Then, hopefully, we could sustain some momentum from Buy Nothing Day as we head into the December holiday and shopping season.

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