Group Asks Consumers to Buy Nothing

ByABC News
November 27, 2002, 2:26 PM

Nov. 28 -- It's not exactly the kind of message they like to hear on Wall Street these days, but that's just the way a Canadian group likes it.

It's a campaign called Buy Nothing Day, and as its name implies it's meant to be a call to consumers everywhere particularly Americans to reconsider their spending habits and take a moment to consider what rampant consumerism does to the Earth.

And if preaching the anti-consumerist message to shop-happy Americans wasn't already a tough-enough sale, the event will take place on what is traditionally one of the busiest shopping day of the year the day after Thanksgiving.

According to the group behind the effort, Vancouver-based Adbusters, as many as one million people in 65 countries are expected to participate in this year's Buy Nothing Day campaign.

Representatives of the business community are not impressed: "I think it's a very bad idea," says Hank Cox, Director of Communications for the National Association of Manufacturers. "Consumer purchasing power is the one thing that has kept the economy growing."

Cox says that he rejects the notion that consumer spending is harmful and calls the Adbuster's effort a "protest against modernity."

"I admit, there's a certain cheekiness and strategic value to the day after Thanksgiving," says Adbuster's founder Kalle Lasn, a long-time political activist who has been behind several anti-consumer and ecological causes over the years.

'Profound and Flaky'

While the group's activities are not likely to lead to street fighting, they may at least be good for a little street theater.

This year's effort, says Lasn, will have campaigners dressing up as shopping police and handing out "fines" to unwary shoppers lugging swollen bags. They also plan to have participants in pig masks lurking at major shopping malls, ready to snort and jeer at those they perceive as over-zealous shoppers.

The Buy Nothing Day concept began on a whim in 1992 when Lasn and a group of hard-core Northwest environmentalists were brainstorming ideas how to tackle what they saw as a growing problem of over-consumption in America.