“Between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption. If we change our consumption habits, this would have a drastic effect on our environmental footprint as well.”
Buy Nothing Day was launched in 1992 in Vancouver, Canada by artist Ted Dave “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” It was subsequently taken over by Adbusters Magazine and the date changed to occur annually on #BlackFriday – a perfect counter action to the frenzied day of shopping for sales on items most people probably don’t even need.
Various campaigns and forms of protest take place across the world on #BuyNothingDay to shine a spotlight on the serious implications of overconsumption on the health of the planet (and people). But the intention of those who promote Buy Nothing Day is not simply to rally people to buy nothing for a single day (although wouldn’t it be cool if so many people participated as to cause a visible drop in sales?!), the bigger picture is about inspiring permanent, lasting lifestyle changes:
“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.”
– Adbusters Magazine
So here are 7 activities for you to try on Buy Nothing Day this year that can be carried over into your year-round relationship with things.
1) Declutter something
Living with clutter is problematic for three main reasons: 1) it prevents you from being able to locate items you need which causes stress 2) it’s expensive and 3) it takes up mental space as much as it does physical space.
Why not pick an area of your home you’ve been meaning to give some attention to and spend some time on Buy Nothing Day sifting through closets, drawers, cupboards, garages, storage units, etc. Organize the area and prepare a box (or boxes!) of things you want to part with. You may even discover a long lost treasure or two while you’re at it.
Looking for decluttering strategies? Check out Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And if you’re looking for strategies to keep your home from becoming cluttered in the future, Sarah Lazarovic’s A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy is a meditation on how to stop shopping for unnecessary things in the first place.
2) Swap something
Now that you’ve decluttered your living space, you probably have a few items you want to let go of. And maybe you’ve got a list of items you need, either for yourself or to give as gifts.
Luckily, we live in an age where community swaps and trading platforms have exploded in popularity, making it easy for people to recirculate gently used items. Online platforms like Bunz Trading Zone and the Freecycle Network make it easy to list items and search for specific things you may be looking for. Buy Nothing Groups on Facebook are local groups where neighbours help each other get what they need without spending money.
You can also search for local community groups that are hosting swaps in public spaces – such as Toronto’s popular Holiday Gift Swap – or host your own!
3) Repair something
If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a few items lying around that are perfectly good, they just need a little TLC: a lovely wool sweater that has a hole, a hand steamer that has stopped spitting steam, a favourite necklace with a broken chain. These are a few of my favourite broken things.
Instead of shopping for something new, breathe new life into something you already have by getting it fixed. There are endless DIY instructions for all kinds of repairs you can look up online (one of my favourites for stitching up holes in clothing is Sashiko mending). But if you feel you need guidance, look up your local Repair Café and take your item to their next event.
Repair Cafés exist all around the world, consisting of local ‘fixperts’ with a variety of different skill sets. They host events in community spaces and invite the public to bring their broken treasures to get them fixed. Clothing, electronics, appliances, bicycles, jewelry – you bring it, they fix it. They’ll even teach you how to do it yourself.
4) Make something
Buy Nothing Day kicks off Make Smthng Week, a worldwide movement dedicated to bringing people together to reuse, reimagine and make things together rather than rushing out to consume yet more stuff. This is a particularly inspiring movement, flipping the isolating experience of consumerism on its head to bring people closer together in community over a shared activity.
Meanwhile, here are some inspiring DIY projects you could easily take on at home:
- Make a wallet using an old juice carton.
- Take an old pair of jeans that have seen better days and make your own bunting and then use the scraps to make these cute bracelets.
- Are your jeans salvageable? Use a Sashiko mending technique to bring them back to life.
- Old pillow cases can transform into these garment bags or into reusable shopping bags (there’s even a no-sew way to do this). Old t-shirts can also be transformed into no-sew tote bags.
- Are you sure that’s a wine bottle or is it actually a vase?
- Plastic bottles can be transformed into so many different things – from bird feeders to self-watering gardens to lawn sprinklers.
- Reuse textiles by turning them into wax wraps (replacements for single-use plastic wrap).
5) Borrow something
Maybe you need a tool for one of the items you’re about to repair or make. Before you rush out and buy it, check to see if there is a Tool Library or Library of Things in your area. These are like book libraries, but for stuff like tools, camping gear, party supplies, children’s toys, etc. Anything you might need access to but don’t need to own.
When a drill is used for just 13 minutes in its usable lifespan, does every home need to be storing one in basements, closets and storage units? It makes more sense to borrow these items from community hubs, and put the item back when you’re finished for the next person to use.
If there isn’t a Library of Things in your community yet, you can also try Peerby, an app that facilitates borrowing between neighbours in local communities.
6) Cook/Bake something
One third of food produced globally is wasted annually and when it ends up in landfills, it releases methane gas – which has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. 58% of all food produced in Canada — 35.5 million tonnes — is lost or wasted every year. In monetary terms, that’s $49 billion we’re chucking in wasted food, or $1,766 per household. All the more heartbreaking knowing 4 million Canadians experience food insecurity.
Take some time on Buy Nothing Day to explore your fridge and cupboards to see what you have hidden in there. Go on an arctic adventure in your freezer to uncover frozen treasures. See if you can cook a meal using just what you’ve got or bake something (maybe you’ve got an abundance of black bananas in your fridge like I do, and you can finally get around to making banana bread). Baking is an excellent way to spend genuine time with friends and family, and is a great activity for kids.
Having trouble thinking up recipes? Check out these apps that help you pick recipes based on ingredients you already have. And if you need one or two missing ingredients, try out these apps for picking up perfectly good food about to be wasted.
7) Donate something
There is no shopping on a dead planet.
This year was a dramatic one for our shared home – the world watched in horror as the Amazon burned and whales washed up on the shore with stomachs full of plastic. Meanwhile deforestation from animal agriculture continued to threaten one of the best natural protections against climate change we have.
The frequency and severity of these events have woken up a worldwide movement. Canada saw over a million people take to the streets in the largest climate strike in the history of the world. You’ve raised your voices so loudly that Climate Strike and Climate Emergency were named words of the year. Change is coming.
Now is the time. According to the world’s leading climate scientists, we have less than 11 years to curb catastrophic climate change. We need to take the energy, enthusiasm and numbers from the worldwide protest events and turn it into tangible systemic change. Policies that will end the era of plastic; transition infrastructure and jobs away from toxic oil towards a green energy economy; and end the abuse of our natural ecosystems for the profit of the very few.
These kinds of changes will only occur when large numbers people mobilize effectively. Support the environmental organizations who are bringing people together to achieve these goals.
Greenpeace is unique because we are a 100% independent organization funded by people, not corporations or governments. That means we have the freedom to speak out on the biggest environmental issues of our time, free from third party influence.