Saturday, 24 November 2012

What did you buy today?

Or did you leave your purse at home in support of Buy Nothing Day? The event (or should that be 'non-event') has been running since the '90s, when it was first thought up by Adbusters - a Canadian, not-for-profit magazine looking at the impact our consumerist society is having on our physical and cultural environment.

It seems like a great idea - everyone can stop shopping for just a day, right? However, if the idea is to start people off with baby steps towards a more environmentally- and socially-conscious purchasing life, then why stage the event:

a) on the last weekend in November, just as the Christmas shopping mania is kicking off?
b) on a Saturday, when the majority of people 'need' to do some kind of shopping - for food, for example?
c) with almost no real promotion?

And I think it is the latter that is the most confusing. It feels like the green movement has always been a little slow on the uptake - they started out by vilifying the computer age as a wasteful succession of gadgets, rather than embracing the communications opportunities these technologies afford us. Similarly, advertising still seems to be seen as the poison of the Big Bad Corporates, and as such can't possibly be applied to anti-consumerist campaigns and activities.

But perhaps if more people knew about Buy Nothing Day, then more people would have taken part. The green movement has had some great successes in recent years as more charities and organisations have woken up to the idea that the majority of people, when presented with an option, won't make the 'greener' choice unless it is explained to them why they should. I'm all for less consumption - the 20% of us in the developed world are consuming more than 80% of the planet's resources after all. Surely 'Buy Nothing Day' should be something that is in the public consciousness and not a hidden sidebar in a couple of niche publications aimed at those who're already sold on the green lifestyle.

A social media campaign seems like a no-brainer, but neither I, nor my far more social-media-dependent husband were aware of anything. As it happens, I didn't buy anything today, but that's just a reflection of the fact that Saturday mornings the other half takes our daughter into town and I get a lie-in, coupled with the fact that we had visitors this afternoon and I'm still in the planning phases for my Christmas purchases. Still, maybe next year I'll consciously choose to support 'Buy Nothing Day'. I might even help them spread the word a bit more...

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