Could you buy nothing for an entire year? Each year AdBusters promotes Buy Nothing Day on the day after Thanksgiving to raise awareness about wasteful consumer habits. But what about a Buy Nothing Year? That’s exactly what this group has pledged to do in 2007.
Before dismissing a buy nothing year as insane and unachievable, consider the fact that the premise does not proclude buying the things you need for survival such as food, and actually allows to buy used or barter for anything you may desire. A secondary goal of buy nothing year is to encourage you to support local farmers and merchants in buying the foodstuffs you do need.
If you have ever participated in a buy nothing day or have ever pinched pennies for a few days, you probably already know how much we can do without when we put our minds to it. Candy and gum, fast-food lunches, useless trinkets, and excessive clothing all satisfy our desires, not our needs. And today, even larger items including computers, appliances, and cars are disposable. Wasteful packaging aside, most of what Americans buy will become trash within 10 years.
According to 2002 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, the average American generates about 4.4 pounds of trash each day. That’s 1,606 pounds a year and, assuming a lifespan of 80 years, more than 64 tons in a lifetime, or the equivalent weight of some railway locomotives!
The staggering environmental impact of 300 million Americans treating their county as a landfill aside, all this buying detracts from our relationships and our health. It draws lines between privilege and poverty, inspires lust, and leads to debt. It’s why we work longer hours and get fatter than any other nation on the planet.
Not to mention, this being a personal finance website, the high cost of buying unnecessary and disposable products day in and day out.
What can you do? Can you go a year only buying local groceries and other items you need used? How much money might it save you?
What about a month? One week? Starting today, I am going to see how far I can go. I’ll let you know.
Because a buy nothing year is such an ambitious goal, anybody attempting it should be commended. Also, I would think it’s fair to be able to set your own rules. For me, I’m going to try to buy nothing from commercial sources except groceries (buy local when possible), medications and toiletries, and raw materials for art, household, or building projects. Everything else, I will buy used. I’ll let you know how it goes.