We all know that Thanksgiving is coming up next week because we’ve been salivating over thoughts of pumpkin pie all month. But do you have “Buy Nothing Day” on your calendar yet? Well pencil it in on Friday, Nov. 23, because here is your chance to make a difference.
First of all, what is Thanksgiving all about? Expressing gratitude for an abundance of food by sharing with others. Warm homes, steamy mashed potatoes, being in the company of loved ones, smell of cinnamon and sweet potatoes baking. A humble ceremony in which you give thanks to the fertile soil, the rains, the sun, the indigenous peoples for sharing their wisdom that saved our ancestors from starvation. Then you go to bed, and the next day morphs into a gluttonous, all-you-can-buy buffet brought to you by corporate America, and by buffet, I’m not talking about how you purposely wore the elastic waist pants to Thanksgiving dinner; I’m referring to – “Black Friday,” the biggest shopping day of the year.
In response to “Black Friday,” Adbusters, a nonprofit magazine from Vancouver, has reclaimed the day after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day,” which started 15 years ago and has spread to 65 countries. The purpose behind this annual boycott of consumerism is not as much about not opening your wallet for one day, but more “reminding ourselves to really think about what we are buying, why we are buying it and whether we really need it at all.”
Kalle Lasn, the co-founder of Adbusters notes that “so much emphasis has been placed on buying carbon offsets and compact fluorescent light bulbs and hybrid cars that we are losing sight of the core cause of our environmental problems: we consume far too much.”
“Buy Nothing Day is not just about changing your routine for one day. It’s about starting a lasting lifestyle commitment. With over six billion people on the planet, it is the responsibility of the most affluent – the upper 20 percent that consumes 80 percent of the world’s resources – to set out on a new path,” he said.
We all know that driving less and riding a bike and taking public transportation is a great way to reduce our individual carbon footprint. But, what about that crisp dollar just burning a hole in your pocket? How is that dollar connected to global climate change? Well, let’s trace that dollar. Let’s say you use it to buy the newest, shiniest phone. Where was that phone manufactured? Chances are it was in China, which means it was probably made in a coal-fired factory, the dirtiest kind. According to Jared Blumenfeld, director for the San Francisco Department of the Environment, “China will overtake the United States next year to become the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases. … China’s growth, however, is powered by America’s demand for consumer products – and this growth is fueled by coal.”
Consumer sovereignty is the “absolute individual power to purchase a product, a service, or not.” This is the idea that any citizen holds power with their dollars by choosing what to buy and what not to buy, or whether to buy at all. Just as you can start choosing to “Buy Nothing,” you can also flex your purchasing power by supporting good businesses and products or services. Your Thanksgiving feast is a great place to start! Try locally grown, unprocessed, un-packaged foods for your Thanksgiving meal. Give thanks for the bounty of fresh produce in San Luis Obispo County and roast some sweet potatoes and onions in appreciation. Mash up some local potatoes you got at Farmers’ Market. And for dessert, make a See Canyon apple pie, or a Los Osos Valley pumpkin pie.
A recent World Watch Institute study shows that “17 percent of global fossil fuel use goes to fertilizing and transporting food,” not to mention the fuel involved in powering the factories where the food is processed and all of the fuel and landfill waste involved in the packaging. Your food choices impact the global greenhouse gas emissions just as much as your mode of transportation.
OK, before you get on with your day, here’s a quick little exercise: take out your wallet and pull out a dollar. Now, crumble it up into a nice, round ball. That’s the globe. What businesses and corporations will that dollar support when you hand it over to the cashier to purchase something? What kind of world is your dollar creating? Is it supporting a local economy, a local farmer? Is it supporting a solar-powered, independent movie theater, a microbrewery? Is it supporting a corporation whose business practices degrade the environment and violate human rights? Is it helping fund the destruction of the rainforest? Is that dollar supporting a manufacturing process that contributes to global climate chaos?
If you aren’t sure, just hang on to that dollar – better that it burn a hole in your pocket than a hole in the ozone.
Lucia Castello is an architecture senior, a member of the Empower Poly coalition and a Mustang Daily columnist.