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Sustainable Missoula: Buy Nothing Day – the opposite of Black Friday

I first heard about Buy Nothing Day while living in Boulder, Colorado six or seven years ago. I remember walking by a shop shortly before Thanksgiving and seeing a large poster proclaiming “Don’t Buy This Jacket” in bold letters.

I paused to read the rest of the print, which stated that Patagonia would be closing all its retail outlets on the day after Thanksgiving (a day traditionally known as Black Friday) in order to encourage staff and customers to get outside and enjoy time with friends and family rather than shop at the store. I casually considered the concept and moved on with my day.

It was a couple of years after seeing that poster that I decided to attend my first Black Friday event, at a big box store in Denver. We have all seen the videos of people trampling and fist fighting their way through Black Friday deals, in order to save a few dollars on the latest gaming system, or this year’s most popular toy. I was ready for some action!

Long story short, there was no excitement, and I was just rather depressed by the not-so-good deals and throngs of people waiting to buy things that would surely be obsolete by the next holiday season. I started thinking more about this “buy nothing” concept.

According to Wikipedia, Buy Nothing Day started in Canada in 1992 and has grown into an international movement aimed at encouraging consumers to reflect on the issue of overconsumption. Its goal is not just to discourage people from shopping for one day, but also to effect larger change in consumer habits through awareness, education, and culture shift.

Many companies (like Patagonia) have signed on by closing their doors on Buy Nothing Day, and activists routinely host interesting events such as jacket swaps, and credit card cut-up events.

As the effects of climate change become a reality, the importance of paying attention to our consumer habits is ever growing. An estimated 40% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from extracting, producing, transporting, consuming, and discarding all the “stuff” and food that we buy. The more we purchase and discard, the more energy we need to make and distribute new materials.

This year, as the holiday season is shaping up to be different than any we have experienced before thanks to the ongoing spread of virus among our population, I think about struggling local businesses and the concept of Buy Nothing Day.

The message that I get from this movement is not that we should never buy anything at all (how realistic is that?), but rather that we should prioritize purchasing secondhand and high quality goods made of nontoxic materials that are designed to last a long while. It’s all about smart consumption and avoiding overconsumption of low quality goods designed for the landfill.

Many of our local Missoula businesses carry durable, environmentally friendly products that make great holiday (and beyond) gifts, and Missoula has an abundance of local artists and vendors who could really use support during these trying times. In fact, Small Business Saturday falls the day after Buy Nothing Day. A coincidence? I’m guessing not! There are abundant opportunities to reduce and reuse this holiday season, all while supporting our community. Happy holidays, and stay safe out there!

Leigh Ratterman is the Zero Waste Systems Manager for Home ReSource. This Sustainable Missoula column is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every week by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

As COVID-19 has altered many community events, some have moved on-line or found creative outlets. Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for Home ReSource’s eNews via their homepage here.

November 22 – December 13. Gather – The Fight to Revitalize Our Native Foodways free screening. In honor of Native American Heritage Month and the closing of 21-Week Racial Equity in the Food System Challenge, AERO is providing a FREE screening of the documentary film Gather. “Gather is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.” See Facebook event HERE for regular updates and resources.

November 28, 6-8pm. Art for the Earth video series premieres on MCAT Channel 189 in Missoula. This two-part series features local organizations & individuals and uses a variety of art forms to explore environmental problems and solutions in support of a healthy, regenerative, just, biologically diverse and vibrant earth. Full program HERE and videos will be available on the Art for the Earth Project Facebook Page after airing on MCAT.

November 28 – December 23. Downtown Missoula Small Business Season. This holiday season, all Missoulians are encouraged to support our local economy and small businesses by shopping and dining in Downtown Missoula. Downtown businesses are extending hours of operation, offering special promotions, and providing personal touches and connections along the way.

December 6, 12-6pm at Imagine Nation Brewing. Glass Recycling Drop-Off. Recycling Works is hosting another glass recycling event! Details, updates, and COVID guidelines will be posted on the Facebook Event page.

Dec. 8, 1pm. Plastics: A Complex Topic – The Global Perspective webinar. Plastic and plastic recycling are among the hottest topics being discussed. It’s not just an issue in the US, it’s global. On this webinar we will hear about the challenges associated with plastic use, recycling and disposal around the world.

December 10, 5-6pm. Climate Smart Missoula’s Year 5 (Virtual) Celebration. Tune in from the comfort of your home for our annual Smarty Pants awards, updates from the Climate Smart team, raffle items, and even a special collaboration beer with Imagine Nation Brewing! More information and link to join will be posted HERE.

December 13 – February 13 (dates added periodically). Virtual Fixit Clinics. Want to try fixing from home? Present your broken item to a global team of expert community repairers and get suggestions for things to try. After all items are presented, participants move to Zoom breakout rooms to implement the suggestions and, hopefully, fix the items.

Find more activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar.