Seattle Permaculture Guild
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What is ‘Buy Nothing Day?’
Among the holidays in the U.S. there is one that stands out for it's practicality, correct? The day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as the Biggest Shopping Day of the Year. What kind of people make a holiday out of shopping? The ones who consume the grossest amount on Earth. Gross as in Big, and gross as in the most disgusting display of plasticky, upgraded, knick-knack, climate-altering, throw away crap the world has ever seen.
In response to that, the Adbusters magazine has for many years helped organize Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving. In their words: “thousands and activists and concerned citizens in 65 countries will take a 24-hour consumer detox”.
Now, now! NO shopping on the biggest shopping day? It’s a family tradition. Should I sit at home twiddling my thumbs in the dark? Heck no! It’s actually much more fun Outside the mall than in it. But first, the long view:
Any garish advertising, by its very nature, is of something we don't need. Otherwise the message wouldn't need to be shoved down our throats. On my South Hill bustrips, as I gaze out at all the billboards, I am reminded of how lettuce will get hot and bolt in the heat of summer. They're dying, so they need to flower and set seed. The same goes for advertising "our flowers are Super big because we need you to buy things really, really badly".
That being said, I am an avid consumer of local products, or products from locally-owned stores. That's right, Tienda La Pequena, I make my little bike trip to get your tortillas because anything I don't buy from Safeway makes me happy. And you know what, Golden Rule Grocery? You start carrying organic milk and I'll be there in a heartbeat.(Buying local keeps the money here in the community, you kind of say it’s like ‘sticking it to the man’).
One thing I tend to enjoy just as much as local stores though, is local Freestores. That’s right, Olympia and Orcas Island have big fancy examples. Or it can be as humble as a box or a shelf somewhere that people can leave things at, or take things home. It also happens to become a hoppin’ community hangout, for obvious reasons. Free stuff!
Seattle has it’s own variation. End-of-the-month furniture shopping out on a nearby sidewalk! (look for the sign that says ‘free’ first). This activity is also tons of fun with friends on a Saturday night. Throw in Craigslist, or college dorm move-outs, and it’s almost too easy.
Additionally, I must say a few words about what it’s like to live in a ‘Gifting’ Economy. Hey, if a bunch of naked, heat-stroked hippies in the desert (at Burning Man), can pull it off, why can’t a town like Puyallup? Smoothies, jewelry, toys, clothes, music, bikes, massages, meals, and of course health care, all given enthusiastically with no strings attached. Enough food and water and good times for everyone, as far as I could tell.
The thing about being given something is that you want to give back.
To take a clue from our Indigeneous teachers, there is the Potlatch. Picture this, it’s your brother’s birthday and he throws a big party, gives stuff away, and gives to you half his pantry, two cars, a laptop, oh and his retirement savings too. How would you feel? Yes, momentarily giddy. Until the weight of it settled on you. You Bet you’d take his family out to fancy dinner whenever they came to town. And, you’d eagerly look forward to your birthday, wherein you could match his gifts, and, like any good sibling, top it.
Or, to avoid that ‘guilty-you-just-gave-me-something’ feeling, there’s always the ‘Barter’ economy.
My first trip to a barterfaire was kind of a surprise, so I showed up with no food, no money, and nothing to barter. By wit, and some creativity with found objects, I came away from the weekend with a full belly of delicious meals, and a backpack full of clothes, jams, smoked salmon, jewelry, herbs, and twelve dollars. I have a friend who is currently, through a few rounds of barterfaires, turning his pocket link into a biodiesel bus. He's almost there.
I work at Terry's Berries part-time, and just recently turned my employee vegetable share into a chiropractic adjustment. And the doctor thought He got the better deal!
So, this November 23rd I may not see you in the mall. I may be biking around with friends helping neighbors mow lawns or rake up leaves. Imagine their delight as a group of eccentrically dressed strangers roll up. Strangers no longer!
Seriously though, there’s a lot of packaged crap out there. What really is the gift we want to leave to future generations?