Perhaps one of the most alarming things I have heard in a long time has been the chorus of voices proclaiming the difficulty of participating in Buy Nothing Day. And overwhelmingly , I am not talking people who simply find a movement like BND to be trivial lefty nonsense. I’m talking about folks who are sympathetic to the ideal head up by BND, but find it difficult to navigate the holiday season without participating in the sales rituals established by Big Retail. I’m finding this difficult to swallow and so I am feeling inspired to write this Top 10 list. If you find it even a wee bit enlightening, please pass it on.
Buy Nothing Day (BND), according to the hive mind known as Wikipedia, is an international day of protest against consumerism observed by social activists and many concerned citizens. Buy Nothing Day is held the Friday after American Thanksgiving in North America and the last Saturday in November internationally, which in 2012 correspond to November 23 in North America and November 24 internationally.
The first Buy Nothing Day was organized in Mexico in September 1992 “as a day for society to examine the issue of over-consumption.” In 1997, it was moved to the Friday after American Thanksgiving, also called “Black Friday”, which is one of the ten busiest shopping days in the United States. In 2000, advertisements by Adbusters promoting Buy Nothing Day were denied advertising time by almost all major television networks except for CNN. Soon, campaigns started appearing in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, Netherlands, France, and Norway. Participation now includes more than 65 nations.
#10 – Sew/Knit Something!
Obviously, this is one for those of you currently supporting a healthy textile habit. Rather than buying a couple skeins of that gorgeous new, oh-so-soft alpaca wool (that will in all likelihood result in a $200, one-armed addition to your to-do list), gather together all your scraps and start thinking small. Hats, keychains, ornaments, small bags, fingerless mitts, cowls, and koozies are projects that don’t require much material or time to make.
#9 – Upcycle Something!
Upcycling is the process of using waste material or useless stuff to create new products. Though almost anything can be upcycled, I’m a fan of projects involving bottles and jars. The sheer number of consumer products that are delivered in these containers means they are highly available. And the enormous variety of products that come to use in bottles and jars means there are a wide range of aesthetically pleasing forms to play with. Upcycled pendant lights, outdoor torches, hummingbird feeders, terrariums, kilns, storage, picture frames, drinking glasses, planters have all proven that bottles and jars never really die.
Check out this pinterest board of creative upcycles for your glassware http://pinterest.com/dreamsunderfoot/diy-101-ways-to-upcycle-glass-jars-and-bottles/
#8 – Really Really Free Market!
A RRFM is a community-organized temporary marketplace based upon a gift economy. You can bring unneeded items and food, skills and talents to share, or just show up in spirit of community. Items are freely given and taken, but more importantly community is collectively fostered in public spaces. Charlottesville, Richmond, Carrboro, Durham, and San Diego all have RRFMs (that covers a large group of my friends and family) and many have events planned for But Nothing Day. Hit up Google and find one near you.
#7 – Make a Mixtape!
Gone are the days when making a mixtape involved the tedious material labor of collecting recordings, recording songs off the radio, meticulously cuing tape (I used the pencil method), and creating cover art that represented the true range of expressive and symbolic meanings curated into 90 minutes of awesomeness. Frankly, I think it’s a shame, but I wont hate on the iTunes play list in all its 5 minutes worth of work. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor… lose yourself in the process and the wonderful gift that is music. You wont regret it.
#6 – Invent Something!
I am 110% guilty of being obsessed with tinkering, but not everyone finds freestyle making to be a desirable way to pass the time. Consider one of my new favorite modes of invention inspired by my 5-year-old, games. If you’ve every played a board game, you’ve got the basic principles down. Mix in some high energy interaction (a la Taboo or Pictionary), and you’ve official created a source of readily accessible, cost free joy–aren’t you awesome. You can make your game educational (for the kids), silly (for us all), party-oriented (for those special occasions), or drinking (for the after work crowd).
#5 – Write Something!
I would hazard to guess that if many of us stopped to think about what percentage of our communication with friends and family in composed of “likes” and “shares,” obnoxious memes and youtube videos, we wouldn’t like the number we come up with. Taking the time to hand write something to someone might be the most impactful thing you do this year. The ambitious among you might craft a poem, a short story, a or a tribute. Hell, why not pen someone a Hip-Hop love jam. I promise whoever receives it will laugh out loud.
#4 – Bake Something!
Use Buy Nothing Day as and opportunity to Iron Chef your pantry. Better yet, invite a couple of friends over and invite them to bring the odd dry goods wasting away in their pantries as well and make the challenge official. Though the fancy stuff often catches our attention a shocking number of baked goods can be crafted out of a few basic ingredients. The return on investment for flour, sugar, and baking powder is through the roof.
#3 – Grow Something!
It’s been said that house plants can help you breathe easier, naturally increase the humidity of a room, scrub the air of VOCs, improve emotional health, and sharpen your focus. What’s more, there are few house plants that don’t lend themselves to propagating by rooting clippings. Upcycle a unique planter (see #9) and you have a sweet, thoughtful, gift.
#2 – Ferment Something!
Those of you who know me, know that this is close to my heart. But I know as compulsive homebrewer that the start-up costs of beer making can be high and point of this post isn’t to get you to go out and buy something. No worries! Many things benefit from fermentation, even things that are already fermented. Think sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha, vinegar, and farm wine. All are fabulous fermented products that you can produce on a small scale.
#1 – Think Critically!
The best gift you can give yourself and others on Buy Nothing Day is the gift of critical thought. A good place to start is asking yourself: Why do we trample people to get new stuff less than 24 hours after stopping to give thanks for what we already have? Why have so many of us been convinced that participation in mass acts of competitive consumption like Black Friday are the most legitimate ways to prepare for a season of giving? Why have we allowed communal acts of making and sharing to be devalued in favor of individualistic and highly anonymous shopping sprees? Have we really come to a point where we don’t know how to do something meaningful for the people we love without the intervention of a big box retail outlet? How do we differentiate between want and need and have we lost the ability to find joy in attending to the latter because of the seduction of the former?
If you do shop Friday, shop conscientiously. Shop local. Shop fair trade. Shop for reuse.