Sunday, November 25, 2012

Buy Nothing Day

Today was Buy Nothing Day. I bought nothing. I feel that I cheated a little, in that I didn't go near any retail or entertainment districts. However, yesterday I did brave the one day sale "event" of the big department store here in Perth. Whereas in previous years I would have fallen victim to heavy discounts on electronics, manchester, luggage, cosmetics and fashion, yesterday I just felt a bit ill about joining in the consumer frenzy and accumulating more stuff. I am finding it very easy to avoid buying new clothes, as I am currently reading To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle, about the environmental and human costs of garment production - not only of cheap, "fast fashion" labels but also of luxury brands.  I thought I already had pretty strict criteria for new clothing and accessory purchases (ethically made in Australia, made in a developed country or fair trade) but reading about the cotton and leather industries has put me off completely. 

Even staying away from stores today, I was bombarded via my RSS feeder to SAVE SAVE SAVE in online Black Friday sales from the USA. Black Friday sales occur in the USA (and even Canada) on the day after American Thanksgiving - Friday 23rd November this year. (Buy Nothing Day coincides with Black Friday in North America, as opposed to other countries where it is held on Saturday.) This year, some big businesses commenced their Black Friday sales on Thursday (Thanksgiving). The Seattle Times interviewed some people who left their family celebrations early to line up for sales (probably to buy gifts for the same family members they've abandoned with the cold turkey). Consumers will have a little time to rest up over the weekend before the onslaught of Cyber Monday online sales (an event that Australia's big retailers tried, and failed, to emulate this week with "Click Frenzy" aka #ClickFail).

Buy Nothing Day is not the only protest against Black Friday. As I mentioned in my previous post, Occupy Christmas is a movement to encourage consumers to purchase from local, independent designers and retailers, instead of "big box" retailers and global brands. Small Business Saturday, the day following Black Friday, also encourages North American consumers to patronise their local businesses. (It was founded in 2010 by American Express - think what you will about that.)

Online lifestyle retailer Holstee are promoting the idea of Block Friday to replace Black Friday, encouraging consumers to be mindful of how they spend their money and "seizing an important chance to spend quality time with friends, loved ones, and ourselves". True to their word, Holstee take their store offline on Black Friday, to allow their staff to spend time with loved ones. (Discovered via Unconsumption.)

This year on Black Friday, there were multiple demonstrations outside Walmart stores, protesting for better wages and conditions for Walmart's employees. You can support them here via the Story of Stuff site. Time will tell whether pay and benefits for employees of America's big retailers, many of whom live under the poverty line, will improve.

As for me, I will be following up Buy Nothing Day by attending local handmade design markets tomorrow, followed by a community street festival. I don't think my wallet will stay closed for long but at least the purchases will be thoughtful.

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