A Buy Nothing Day Challenge

November 25, 2011 is Buy Nothing Day (BND) in North America.

Buy Nothing Day logo from www.adbusters.orgWhat is BND you may ask? BND was created in Vancouver in 1992 by Ted Dave, a social critic and media activist, as a time for all of us to put a pause on consumer spending.  BND has since been adopted by Adbusters and has grown into an international event. Ted Dave designed BND to remind the consumer and the retailer of the buying public’s true power.

Many actions, whether large or small, have taken place on BND such as performances, videos, workshops, symposiums, street parties, barter exchanges and food donations.  Over the years, these actions have been recorded in 29 countries.

As Canadians we are part of the 20% of the world’s population that consumes over 80% of the world’s resources.  Over-consumption is a huge factor in that figure.  Some may think that BND is only recognized by radicals and extremists. I’d like to think of it as a day we could recognize to make us more conscious of our everyday purchasing practices.

Imagine if everyone made a conscious decision to scale back his or her purchases, even by a small amount, what a huge impact that could make.  I’ve thought about it and I’m throwing down the gauntlet.

I’ve challenged the HaltonRecycles team to “participate by not participating” and commit to BND on November 25, 2011.  This means no buying coffee, gas, gum, or having your partner buy you dinner, groceries or those boots you’ve had your eye on. Check out the “comment” section next week to find out if it easier than they thought.  Harder? Did they cave?

Are you up for the challenge? Let us know if you are and what your day is like without buying (or having someone buy for you) one single thing!

For some more inspiration and information on becoming a bit more conscious when it comes to your spending habits, check out How to Buy Nothing, 5 Easy Tips for Spending Less and The Story of Stuff.

About Nicole Meek

Position: Waste Management Program Coordinator Passion: collaborating with my colleagues in projects that require team effort. Strange Obsession: Excel spreadsheets, I always find an excuse to whip one up! At Home: I love being active, running/walking my dog, biking with my husband, or participating in various exercise regimes.
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11 Responses to A Buy Nothing Day Challenge

  1. Eddie Baby says:

    Nice Nicole. Unfortunately Friday being Friday I will probably buy pints; however, other than that I promise to Buy Nothing.


  2. John Watson says:

    When I told people I was choosing to participate in Buy Nothing Day, some felt it was a provocative comment about consumerism, while others felt it was a dangerous activity during the current global economic crisis. Both are true.

    It was ironic however, to see Buy Nothing Day unfold at the same time as “Black Friday,” a day in which shoppers in one store were pepper sprayed by a fellow shopper — all over a “good deal.”

    The reason why Buy Nothing Day resonates with me is that I take school children on tours of the landfill. There’s nothing like sitting on top of 20 meters of stuff that people bought and then threw away, for concepts of over-consumption to start to hit home.

    Look: I’m not an anarchist. I’m not a protestor. I like pop culture, I only wear one particular brand of jeans, I like to buy a take-out pizza on Friday nights after a long week.

    I did not find Buy Nothing Day particularly easy. It did however, make me realize how many meaningless purchases I can make in a regular day. Purchases that are single-use, unhealthy and disposable.

    I think people would be more comfortable if the day was actually called “Buy Better Day.” Buy products that are locally made or grown, that will last a long time, that are multi-use and reusable, that come in easily recycable packaging. If we all took those ideas to heart, we’d be doing a lot of good for our environment and our economy.

    – John Watson, Waste Diversion Education Coordinator, Halton Region

  3. One day. Two Buy Nothing Day fails.

    First thing in the morning, I had a doctor’s appointment where signs littered the parking lot “park FREE for 20 minutes.” I raced up to the office, sat down in the waiting room (which is sooo conveniently named) for 20 minutes –- well so much for the free parking – needless to say I coughed up the $3. The rest of the day went on pretty smoothly. I had made my coffee at home, brought a lunch, and didn’t need gas.

    After work, I headed north for the weekend, and as I prepared my outfit for a Saturday event, I realized that I did not pack… pantyhose! I caved, went to the store and bought them. So much for Buy Nothing Day. Oh and it gets better -– I soon realized I had bought brown and not black, and ended up borrowing a pair from my boyfriend’s mom. Just perfect.

    Total cost for Buy Nothing Day: $10.00.

    – Allison Tyldesley, Landfill Technician, Halton Region

  4. Shirley McLean says:

    When the Buy Nothing Day challenge was first issued to us, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it. Not so much the idea of getting through a day without buying something. I actually have several days in any given week when I do not buy anything, but to actually commit to a specific date. However, my fridge and cupboards were stocked up, my car had enough gas, and a nice bottle of wine was already chilling in my fridge. So I was all set to avoid the mall mayhem of Black Friday and participate in Buy Nothing Day. The one thing that I hope everyone takes away from this day, is to be conscious about our consumer choices and the values (other than monetary) we are supporting with our choices.

    – Shirley McLean, Supervisor Solid Waste Planning, Halton Region

  5. Sean says:

    I didn’t deliberately buy nothing, but buying little and better – as John suggested – has become part of my routine.

    It’s really heartening to see that my home Region is making headway and planting the seeds of change in the minds of residents and employees.

    Have you ever considered challenging other regions to try and get more traction?

    Great work!
    Sean Magee, Environmental Educator and Communicator

  6. Nicole Watt says:

    Buy Nothing Day…easy right? Well…not as easy as you think.

    My husband and I started off Thursday night in the right frame of mind, we made our lunches for the next day. However, Friday morning, my husband didn’t have enough time for breakfast, so the next best thing, a quick jaunt to Tim Hortons…oops, only one hour into the day and he failed already! I myself am feeling quite proud, I made my breakfast, I had my travel mug with tea, and I am on my way to work with my lunch packed. This was going to be an easy day for me.

    At about 10:30 in the morning I was quite pleased that I wasn’t even thinking about the vending machine, when I get a call from my husband, “Hey hun, I got that TV on sale for my parents for Christmas!” “Shhh,” I’m hissing into the phone, I didn’t want my coworkers to hear that my husband REALLY didn’t go along with Buy Nothing Day!

    So as proud as I am, I made it through Buy Nothing Day quite easily, my husband on the other hand failed miserably. Who knew buying nothing could be that difficult!

    – Nicole Watt, GreenCart Program Coordinator, Halton Region

  7. Nicole Meek says:

    I’d like to thank all my colleagues (and their spouses) for attempting this challenge. I’d also like to thank you guys for being so honest. I am not concerned if you had to fulfill a snack attack with bag of chips or purchase emergency panty hose. As long as you came away from the day with a bit more awareness for your daily purchasing habits, mission accomplished I think.

    So how well did I do with my own challenge? Well, I didn’t make any purchases, but it was much more challenging than I originally had anticipated.

    I rarely go out for lunch and, Murphy’s law, had to decline work two lunches for that day. The invites went out over a week before BND and I did feel a little awkward declining. Luckily, the organizers were very understanding and kind enough to reschedule.

    Before work on BND I was at home on the computer and received a message that my anti-virus is about to expire and was all ready to renew it. Something distracted me and I didn’t do it. It didn’t register until later that afternoon that I had almost purchased something without even blinking an eye about BND!

    After work was a struggle too. We scrounged through the fridge to attempt to put a meal together and had to miss out on a last minute (extended) family dinner to the Keg!

    BND made me aware of the mindless purchases that I often make. This day made me realize that I am not always conscious of what I am buying and how easy I make various transactions without it even registering (pardon the pun!) There are many days that I do not buy anything, but it really did make a difference when I had to pay special attention to my habits. Next year I think I’ll do as others have suggested on BND, still ensure that I do not purchase anything for myself but instead purchase items for a food bank or make a conscious donation to a charity.

    Thanks again,

    Nicole Meek, Waste Management Program Coordinator, Halton Region

  8. Andrea Graham says:

    This is actually the first I’ve heard of Buy Nothing Day. I like the premise behind it and making a conscience effort to realize how many insignificant items we buy on a daily basis – that, and I’m always up for a challenge.

    My day started off well enough, I actually woke up 15 minutes earlier to make coffee and breakfast in the morning so I could avoid that stop at Timmies, and I stopped for gas the night before. After that it all went downhill….not in the sense that I bought anything, but 2 hours into work I found myself on my way home again with the stomach flu. So, needless to say I succeeded!

    However, it being “Black Friday” there were a lot of sales happening in Canada as well that I tried to ignore, except for one. I have to admit I did send my husband out to PetSmart for a new dog bed – they were 50% off for 1 day only! Couldn’t resist, considering our puppy decided to use hers as a chew toy 3 days before.

    I’d like to think that regardless of my untimely sickness I still would have done a pretty good job at not buying anything. This little challenge has made me more aware of my daily buying habits, and I’ll definitely be trying to curb them a little.

    Andrea Graham, Waste Management Administration Technician, Halton Region

  9. Walter Scattolon says:

    So, I tried. I tried to figure it out. I wanted to figure out why I didn’t want to participate in a day arranged by someone else, someone else who wanted me to stop doing something for reasons that “they” felt were important. I did not accept the challenge on first offer. I waited. I wanted to see where my opposition to the challenge of “buying nothing” was rooted. I thought about it for several days and the thought process went something like this:

    “…if I buy nothing on one day then what does that prove? I can just buy it the next day, and twice as much. Who’s gonna know or care? But, then again I want to make a difference where I can, so maybe it’s that this BND thing is just not good ENOUGH and I want it to REALLY count, or forget it. Right? …yeah, I don’t think this is even worth doing because its ill-conceived… too idealistic without being effective… I don’t want to do it. It’s decided. Done. No wait, maybe I could do it. Put it on my to do list, just think ahead and it will be easy. Just do it. It will make you feel good. …yeah, but…”

    Fast forward to Buy Nothing Day 2011. I forgot my lunch at home (error 1). Nothing stashed in my desk to eat… so off to the local deli I went (error 2 to fix error 1). Phew…feeling good, got fuel yesterday so my car is happy and so is my stomach. By 1:15 p.m. a sense of failure sets in, however, and I feel guilt for something I usually do everyday: eat. But, I got over it. I started to build up my ego to glaze over the errors already made and figured there wasn’t much else I could buy at work, so I was “safe,” at least until 5 p.m. (Yes, I avoided the vending machines!)

    During dinner at home with the wifey, I learn that we are running out of time to prepare for the gift giving season… yadda yadda yadda… shwoosh… boom… the scene has changed and I am now pushing a cart at the local big box store trying to choose which board game to pair with which other in an unbelievable BOGO sale in aisle 3. What happened? Black Friday happened… in fact it ran all the way to midnight in my Canadian neighbourhood! (errors 3 through 20 also happened there). Woops. But, a huge dent in the gift list was accomplished, and at a discount. Not a total failure, right? I mean, for most of the waking day I bought nothing, just not for the whole day.

    But, I digress. Look, I know what I was supposed to do and I had to balance it with what I needed to do. The thing is, throughout all of this I came to the conclusion that the day should be renamed “Buy Nothing Useless Day” because sometimes you can’t schedule when you need to buy things, but you have all sorts of power to decide “what” you are buying. “When” you buy… well, that’s not always something that can be scheduled or deferred. If we can at least realize the goal of buying useful things over useless things, we are more than halfway there. That’s my two-cents, as saved through that awesome BOGO sale I mentioned. Sorry (error 21).

    Until next year, I will continue trying to buy better and buy nothing useless whenever I do buy at all.

    – Walter Scattolon, Landfill Technologist, Halton Region

  10. Stacey Gibbs says:

    How many times a day do I stop to spend money whether it be something of necessity or something frivolous? I didn’t realize how many until participating in the BND. My mornings usually start with a great cup of Timmies and Friday I had to make sure that I had my coffee made before I ran out the door to work. I bring my lunch to work every day along with my breakfast, so really had no issues there.

    But like a lot of others after a busy week at work, I enjoy getting take out on Friday nights with my family. So Thursday I had to really plan to make sure I had everything I needed for dinner on Friday, as well as I was starting my Christmas baking so needed to ensure I had everything I needed to make my Cookie bark and Chocolate Chip Shortbread. Just popping out to the store to get something I missed would not be permitted!!

    Also on my drive home Thursday night I realized that my vehicle was almost out of gas, thinking to myself I can just fill up on the way in to work I really had to stop and think….no I can’t do that I need to pull in to the nearest gas station and fill up now.

    I think participating in BND really made me stop and think about my spending habits and the items I am purchasing…are they really necessary?

    My mother also participated in the BND and asked a great question if I return something to a store do I get bonus points!!

    Stacey Gibbs, Waste Management Operations Assistant, Halton Region

  11. Nicole Levie says:

    I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it through the day without buying anything only because I am just not that organized these days to make sure I had basics ahead of time. I had no crazy plans to fight the masses in the shopping mall — just watching videos about how people react at a sale is enough to turn me off Christmas shopping.

    The day started okay. I brought my reusable mug of tea, remembered to actually make my lunch. I did have some stuff to get for the busy weekend ahead, just basic stuff like groceries and a card and dish soap, but I thought that I could hold off until Saturday — and I did.

    My husband was kind enough to pick up take out on the way home, and that ended my success because I gladly ate it instead of making dinner for everyone.

    Saturday turned into a rushing day, and I could only get what was needed for the day. Sunday was turned upside down and I finally got to the grocery store at 8:30 p.m. after the kids were in bed.

    It was an interesting exercise. Reflecting on it, I think it is more important to make smarter choices and shop when there is time rather than just not shop on a specific day. I choose to buy stuff in recyclable packaging, buy durable products, shop from a list and think about what I am getting people ahead of time.

    – Nicole Levie, Waste Management Program Coordinator, Halton Region

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