I first heard about Buy Nothing Day when I was a college student studying public relations in the mid-90s. One of our professors introduced us to Adbusters, a Canadian magazine critical of consumerism. Founded by Canadian artist Ted Dave, the Buy Nothing Day message was spread by Adbusters. It had never crossed my mind to consciously skip Black Friday before reading Adbusters, and I found the idea intriguing.
Today Adbusters frames Buy Nothing Day as an international day of protest against consumerism. They encourage people to engage in protest activities like taking a zombie walk, cutting up credit cards, or inviting friends to join you for what is called “whirl-mart.” All activities are designed to bring attention to the large role that consumerism plays in our lives. And the zombie walk sounds like a lot of fun. Of course, if protest actions are not your thing, simply not buying anything all day equals full participation.
According to the Adbusters website, “Buy Nothing Day isn’t just about changing your habits for one day, it is about rediscovering what it means to live freely.” The day is meant to wake us up from our consumerism stupor and become critical consumers, thinking before we buy.
Earlier this week I wrote a post about REI remaining closed on Black Friday and many California State Parks offering free admission to the redwoods for the day.
Finally, the idea of skipping the mall the day after Thanksgiving is catching on after 20+ years of Buy Nothing Day.
Why now? Rather than simply telling us what not to do on Black Friday, the conversation is now revolving around alternative activities. REI started the conversation this year by encouraging folks to be active and get outside. And it is about time.
I recently read an article published in the Chicago Tribune that asked, “Is Black Friday dying?” From the sound of it, Americans are ready to leave shopping behind and replace it with something much more subversive, a day of physical activity after a food-filled holiday. Check out the #optoutside hashtag on social media. It’s full of fun posts.
I like to believe that Buy Nothing Day started this anti-Black Friday trend. People are tired of stores opening early on Thanksgiving and ruining the holiday for their employees. Only we can decide to take back the Thanksgiving holiday so it feels more like a holiday weekend and less like another excuse to shop.
Ultimately, only we can decide how to spend our time and money. On Buy Nothing Day, you might just want to #optoutside.