Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Buy Nothing Day 2006

The game is on. With less than one month to go before Christmas Eve, retailers are gearing up for what they hope will be their biggest holiday season ever. If the financial wizards at Ernst & Young are right, they won't be disappointed. According to Ernst & Young's Canadian Holiday Sales Forecast, lower energy prices and the strong housing market will translate into a 6 to 7 percent increase over 2005 holiday sales of $ 55 billion. It's worth noting that 2005 holiday sales were 5.9 percent higher than 2004.

If you find yourself asking, "Where does it all end?", Adbusters has an answer for you. November 24 is Buy Nothing Day (BND. Timed to coincide with the day after American Thanksgiving, the busiest shopping day of the year, Buy Nothing Day is a Canadian concept that has grown into a global phenomenon. This year, activists in 65 countries will take part in what is being billed a consumer detox.

According to the Adbusters website, creators of BND, "Every November, for 24 hours, we remember that no one was born to shop, we make a small choice to participate by not participating. If you've never taken part in Buy Nothing Day, or if you've taken part in the past but haven't really committed to doing it again, consider this: 2006 will go down as the year in which mainstream dialogue about global warming finally reached its critical mass. What better way to bring the Year of Global Warming to a close than to point people in the direction of real and effective alternatives to the unbridled consumption that has created this quagmire?"

Since the average consumer has yet to make the direct connection between driving their cars and the looming climate crisis, making the link between holiday shopping and saving the planet clearly requires a paradigm shift.

"Our headlong plunge into ecological collapse requires a profound shift in the way we see things. Driving hybrid cars and limiting industrial emissions is great, but they are band-aid solutions if we don't address the core problem: we have to consume less," said Kalle Lasn, co-founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation. "This is the message of Buy Nothing Day."

As simple as it sounds, we are so hard-wired into the idea of gift giving, that the question then becomes, in this season of pressured gift giving, how do we find a saner, less costly way to let those we love, know that we love them?

We could of course, start by simply telling them. Or we could show them. For me, that could be something as simple as somebody bringing me a cup of tea in bed before my crazy day begins. For children, whose parents are way too busy working to make money to buy stuff for their children, how about a day of undivided Mommy-time or Daddy-time? For a harried single parent, how about a week's worth of pre-made dinners to stock the freezer? For a disorganized friend, a coupon for a free closet cleaning; for a lonely senior, a month of Sunday afternoons playing cards; for struggling new parents, an offer to babysit; for the photographer on your list, an afternoon helping them to sort and catalogue their photographs. Once you start thinking about it, it gets easier and easier to come up with creative ideas.

Thanks to an abundant supply of cheap consumer goods, we are losing our ability to be self-sustaining. Wonderful skills like knitting, crocheting, woodworking and other handicrafts are disappearing at an astounding rate. For those who posses these marvelous skills, what better way to pass your love from generation to generation than by teaching these skills to your children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren?

Regardless of your age or stage in life, there is a way to express your love and connection to friends and family without costing the Earth, or your credit rating. Thoughtful gifts of yourself can also makes the lives of our loved ones a little bit easier. All we need to do is take the time to think, rather than shop our way through the holidays.

And that's the real spirit behind BND. It's an opportunity to stop consuming and broaden our humanity instead. After all, isn't that the true spirit of the season?


For more on Buy Nothing Day, visit

For more on Ernst & Young's 2006 Canadian Holiday Sales Forecast, and other fascinating financial facts, visit


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