Did Buy Nothing Day work? It's a toss-up

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

  • Members of the Guelph Juggling Club show off their moves in the University Center as part of Buy Nothing Day. (Greg Beneteau)

    Members of the Guelph Juggling Club show off their moves in the University Center as part of Buy Nothing Day. (Greg Beneteau)

Written by Greg Beneteau

The enticement of free goodies, often used as a sales tactic, got turned on its head friday as students in the were treated to free coffee and tea, bike repairs and even haircuts - all while being encouraged not to buy.

University of Guelph club Guelph Students for Environmental Change brought together numerous players in the University Center for its annual Buy Nothing Day festivities.

The annual event, which takes place in cities across North America, falls on "Black Friday," considered the official start of the holiday shopping season in the U.S.

Retailers on both sides of the border drastically lower prices in an effort to get consumers into the buying mood.

But Buy Nothing Day organizers question whether all that spending is healthy, either for you or the environment.

"We want people to be conscious of what they buy and what impact that has on the planet. You shouldn feel forced to consume things that they could make yourself," explained Andre Alford, a GSEC.

The do-it-yourself mentality was on display at various stations in the UC. Students could make notebooks out of carboard and recycled paper, learn to knit their own clothing, or practice their juggling skills. A local bicycle repair shop dispensed advice on how to keep your two-wheeler road-ready.

Heavy snowfall on friday morning had obviously put winter clothing on the minds of many students, who browsed the collection of free coats and hats for the available from Stuff Swap, a service offered by the Central Student Association.

Steph Marie Szenazi, a co-ordinator with the University's Sustainability Office, said the allure of Buy Nothing Day also reflected the stress brought on by the holidays.

"For many people, Buy Nothing Day is about taking your mind away from all the buying and shopping," said Szenasi, who was clipping away as  a volunteer hairdresser.

"At the same time, it gives people an opportunity to come up with more sustainable and less costly choices for their old shopping habits."

Despite the interest in Buy Nothing Day's anti-consumption message, long line ups in the UC food court and the adjoining Starbucks - despite the availability of free coffee and tea - indicated that many in the campus community were unwilling to give up their purchasing power, even for 24 hours.

Still, Alford estimated that several hundred people participated in the event, including many who were unaware of the day's significance.

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  1. Posted by: amachan on Dec 3, 2010 @ 9:43am

    I think the Hollister sweater kind of diminishes the anti-corporatism message a bit.

  2. Posted by: Matt on Jan 4, 2011 @ 9:05pm

    I think we just have to get past the whole "symbolic" thing... in my opinion this is similar to Earth Day, when we turn off lights for one hour...(and then schools and offices leave them on for the rest of the year, even at nighttime when no one is present in the buildings)...everyone gets happy and thinks that they just saved the world...a much more comprehensive effort needs to be undertaken to attack the root of the problems..I know it's easy to talk.

  3. Posted by: on Jan 10, 2011 @ 9:17pm

    I had no idea buy nothing day was happening, and if i bought things I wouldn't have!!

  4. Posted by: on Feb 24, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    I was kind of disappointed actually, I knew about the event and even trekked to school for it when I didn't have class and it was kind of a let down. At least when I went, the people running it didn't seem to be too excited about it themselves which made it really hard for anyone passing by to want to get involved.

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