Today, the day after Thanksgiving in the US, (commonly called Black Friday, because businesses that have been in the “red” most of the year move into the “black” because Christmas shoppers binge shop) is known as Buy Nothing Day (BND), an international day of protest against consumerism. The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Canada in September 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of overconsumption.” In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after US Thanksgiving, one of the ten busiest shopping days in the United States. In 2000, some advertisements by Adbusters promoting Buy Nothing Day were denied advertising time by almost all major television networks except for CNN. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, the Netherlands, France, Norway and Sweden. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.
Various gatherings and forms of protest have been used on Buy Nothing Day to draw attention to the problem of overconsumption:
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 by destroying their credit cards by cutting them up with the scissors.
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.
I feel much the same way about Buy Nothing Day as I do about Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and the like. Setting aside one day to curtail your hyperconsumption is not going to change much, any more than having a single day to honor mothers or lovers is going to do much to strengthen family ties or relationships. These values should be honored every single day of the year if they are important to you. If by some chance you honor Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving, but then splurge for the rest of the days until Christmas, you have achieved nothing. To be fair, Adbusters claims that Buy Nothing Day is about raising awareness, so that people change their habits permanently, but I do not understand how watching people pretending to be zombies pushing empty shopping carts around a store is going to change anyone’s buying habits. It just seems like an exercise in mockery.
As it happens, I am a great believer in buying as little as possible. Ten years ago, I lived in a four-bedroom house choked with STUFF, and one day I walked away from it carrying one suitcase, and I have never been back. I sold the house and contents as is. Since then I have acquired a second suitcase – I admit it – and I move to a different country every 2 years with my 2 suitcases. If I accumulate any items over and above what fits in those 2 suitcases, I give them away when I move countries. Simple. My life of not buying STUFF suits me now, but I don’t advocate my lifestyle to others. Do what you want. If bankrupting yourself buying mountains of Christmas presents every year makes you happy, go ahead. It’s not my idea of happiness, but you can do what you want. There is, of course, the small matter of the continuously overflowing landfills piled with waste, and oceans flooded with plastic and other pollutants caused by mindless consumption, but I doubt very much that a few people parading their “sanity” in front of herds of crazed shoppers the day after Thanksgiving is going to do much to fix the situation.
Buying nothing will not really help when it comes to meal times unless you have a farm, but you can do a lot to cut down on waste. My guidelines on how to keep a stock pot going in the HINTS tab is a good start. Learning how to make refrigerator soup is another good plan. To make a delicious soup out of odds and ends in the refrigerator requires imagination and experience, but I do it on a regular basis because I like to keep my perishables to a minimum. I actually call refrigerator soup “throw everything in a pot” soup. It amounts to the same thing.