Proponents of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ warn against excess consumerism

By November 29, 2002Press

author: Sherri Cruz
date: November 29, 2002
source: Star Tribune

Today, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, several people plan to go to Nicollet Mall and gleefully dance down store aisles with shopping carts. But their carts will be empty. Gasp!

Instead of filling up on after-Thanksgiving sales, the BodyCartography Project will be performing with their carts between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. to promote Buy Nothing Day, an 11-year-old grass-roots campaign to tame consumerism one day at a time, beginning with the season opener.

Similar groups will be out all over the world during the holiday shopping season, spreading their message that consumerism — which some describe as the over-consumption of goods, resources and services — is wasteful, harmful to the Earth and morally vapid. They will be armed with marketing materials that include posters, handbills, stickers and news releases, supplied by Adbusters Media Foundation, a Vancouver, B.C.-based social activist group.

Buy Nothing Day’s proponents suggest making alternate gifts, such as knitting a hat, giving away a valuable possession, hand-making soap or candles, buying a used book, volunteering or donating to charity. Through its magazine, Adbusters, the organization also attacks — through creative means — other American pastimes such as watching TV and draws attention to their contention that advertising manipulates consumers.

On last year’s Buy Nothing Day, a few people from Adbusters climbed to the top of Knott’s Camp Snoopy inside the Mall of America and hung a 600-foot banner that read: “Shop ’til we drop?” When the climbers came down, they were charged with disorderly conduct. Sam Grabarski, CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, said people shop the day after Thanksgiving because it’s convenient; they have the day off and families are together, so they can find out what gifts each other wants. Retailers make the bulk of their sales during the holidays, and without that revenue downtown retailers would go out of business. Olive Bieringa, co-director of Minneapolis-based BodyCartography Project, suggests that maybe the nation doesn’t need all the retailers it has. People need to shop, she said — but what are they buying and how much of it is necessary?

Buy Nothing Day is a concept that dovetails with her work — performing choreographed and improvised movement and dance in public spaces to promote social messages about people and their environment. Her last project was a performance in the back of a dump truck for the kickoff of the Seward Art Crawl.

Sherri Cruz is at scruz@startribune.com.

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