The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Buy Nothing: No, Really, It’s For Sale

Let’s face it, we live in a material world. And this week is its annual pinnacle, the frantic shopping bonanza known as Black Friday. But it’s also the 10th international Buy Nothing Day — Friday in the U.S. and Saturday everywhere else. It’s a chance to detox from the omnivorous toxicity of conspicuous consumption, to seek some brief redemption from our wasteful and unsustainable more-more-more modus operandi. (Come on, did you really need that Steve Jobs bobblehead?)

Our friends at Do The Green Thing are doing something quite ingenious — they’re selling nothing. Really. Their Buy Nothing campaign is a clever reminder that we all buy stuff, often just for the sake of buying, while sticking with what we’ve got can make more sense. So in their Amazero store, an Amazon mock-up, you can literally purchase Nothing, which costs, well, nothing — they’ve got the standard e-commerce checkout procedure, from the Buy It Now button to the email confirmation after your purchase. (We’ve worked out a special deal for Brain Pickings readers — you can purchase Nothing for 30% off using this link.)

The point, of course, isn’t to completely eradicate consumption — that would be absurd — but, rather, to help us be more mindful of what it is we actually need versus what we buy just for the new-stuff thrill of it.

The effort is a simple yet powerful reminder that, over the holidays, we often end up giving and getting lots of useless stuff. (Green Thing did a survey, which found — unsurprisingly — that 96% of people have gotten a useless gift at some point. We can attest with what’s now a vast collection of annual reindeer figurines from grandma.) That stuff takes energy and precious resources to make, creating unfortunate waste as it ends up in landfills.

And if you think you’re immune to the buybuybuy messaging of the ad industry, you can test just how stealthy its impact is in the All Spin No Substance game, where you get to guess the brand advertised based solely on its logoless visual communication — we bet you’d be surprised how many you get right.

Buy Nothing promotes one of Green Thing’s 7 green actions, stick with what you got, as an antidote to our reckless and thoughtless material habits. And with testimonials from an impressive line-up of celebrities (including one of our favorite British indie bands, The Noisettes) swearing by Nothing, it’s not hard to buy into it.

And if you still feel the compulsion to buy — because, let’s face it, we’ve been so powerfully conditioned for it by today’s media environment — Green Thing’s got your back. Dr. Will Powers, retail therapist, can help you dodge any temptation to buy with some grounded professional advice. You can email him for help in taming your shopaholic urges, or tweet your concerns to @DrWillPowers.

We love both the clever campaign and what it aims to achieve. (We’ve even offered Green Thing some ad space on Brain Pickings — look right — for the attractive price of Nothing.) So exorcise your shopping urges this weekend by buying yourself some Nothing — we vouch for it with a full money-back guarantee.

Published November 24, 2009




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