Buy Nothing Day: What are the environmental impacts of overconsumption?

Buy Nothing Day: Learning About the Environmental Impacts of Overconsumption

So Energy

As we approach the festive period, it’s likely you’ll be tightening your purse strings to prepare for a busy couple of months of spending.

Whether you’re looking at loved ones’ lengthy Christmas lists, preparing to host family and friends, or planning your party season wardrobe, this time of year often comes with an implicit message: buy more!

The problem is, not only does shopping impact our bank balances, it also has a significant knock-on effect when it comes to the environment. From the carbon footprint associated with next-day delivery, to our addiction to fast fashion (research shows that 10,000 items of clothing are being sent to landfill every five minutes), our love for spending comes at an ecological cost.

In reaction to some of these alarming statistics, Buy Nothing Day - taking place on Friday 26th November - invites you to switch off from shopping for a day and challenge some of your consumer habits. Here, we’ve taken a look at what it’s all about, and why small changes to your buying behaviour can make a big difference.

What is Buy Nothing Day?

Those behind the idea of Buy Nothing Day describe it as a “24-hour detox from consumerism, and an opportunity for you to tune into the impact we have on the environment through shopping.”

Having started life in the US as an antidote to the overspending associated with Thanksgiving (Buy Nothing Day takes place the day after Thanksgiving), the event is now marked internationally, with people around the world making a pact not to purchase anything for 24 hours.

Part protest, part personal experiment, the idea is that committing to buying less - even just for one day - is a small step towards changing our attitudes towards our consumption habits.

So do we all need to consume less?

While it’s obviously not a long-term solution to buy nothing all-year-round, there’s plenty of evidence that shows why we could all do with being a bit more to reevaluate our relationship with shopping.

Ultimately, we are all consumers and there will always be certain products that we need to buy. But that shouldn’t stop us from questioning the amount that we buy, or the companies that we buy from. As social entrepreneur and co-founder of Serious Tissues Chris Baker told us in a recent interview, how we spend our money can make a massive difference when it comes to being a force for positive environmental and social change.

Becoming more intentional with how we shop will mean different things for different people; for some it might mean cutting out single-use plastic and only purchasing from brands who use recyclable or biodegradable packaging, while for others it might mean avoiding fast fashion.

“It’s easy to get lost in political nuance and blaming different groups, an ‘us versus them’ mentality,” Chris told us. “But fundamentally, if you move where the money is going, you can change the world.” Read our Invisible Heroes interview with Chris in full here.