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Have you ever heard of a day called Buy Nothing Day? Buy Nothing Day was a holiday that originated in Canada in 1992; and on this day, people were encouraged to buy nothing for 24 hours. Participation was optional, but intent of this holiday was to “expose environmental and ethical consequences of overconsumption.” While this holiday has good motives, it is often overlooked and ignored, making it ineffective in delivering its message. Not only is Buy Nothing Day ineffective in promoting anti-consumerist ideas, it may also hurt small businesses and workers who get paid by the hour or by commission. For these reasons, we shouldn’t support Buy Nothing Day.
Buy Nothing Day could seriously affect small businesses that depend on daily sales and workers in sales positions. Currently, small businesses are struggling to compete with large businesses for customers. Because small businesses don’t have a lot of money or time to spare, it is vital for them to keep their stores open to attract as many customers as possible if they want to survive in the business world. If this holiday becomes popular and encourages people to refrain from buying things in the future, small companies may lose sales and could face smaller profit margins. We shouldn’t be giving more pressure to small companies; instead, we should be finding ways to support them. If retail stores knew that not many customers would be shopping on Buy Nothing Day, they might ask workers to stay home. Most workers who work in retail stores get paid by the hour and often face financial challenges at home. Although Buy Nothing Day lasts only 24 hours, these people will be going home without a paycheck. Even if workers were lucky enough to still be called in to work, many salespeople are paid minimum wage and commissions on the number of sales they make that day. If no one comes into the store to buy goods, that means that the salespeople will not earn commissions. Buy Nothing Day may have good intentions in bringing recognition to the consequences of overconsumption, but it does more harm than good, especially to lower class citizens.
Buy Nothing Day could also cause a broad inconvenience to many consumers. Let’s say that on Buy Nothing Day, you realize that you don’t have any groceries, but stores are closed because of anticipated low customer turnout. What would you do then? You could go to your neighbors to ask for help or even go to your parents’ house if they’re nearby, but that would be awkward and unreasonable. Most people would argue that you could just go to the supermarket the day before, but what if you didn’t have time? Maybe you had to work late last night or maybe you were stuck in heavy traffic and had decided to skip grocery shopping and go home. These situations must be considered before we can give Buy Nothing Day our full support. Buying stuff is a basic human right because you survive on the things that you buy. If you couldn’t buy things in an emergency, what are the solutions and alternatives? Even if you happen to be fine without your groceries on Buy Nothing Day, stores might be crowded with people the next day, which would basically defeat the purpose of the holiday because people are just making up for the missed day of shopping. Instead of exposing the dangers of overconsumption and the negative effect it has on the environment, Buy Nothing Day will only be a nuisance and likely be ignored.
Buy Nothing Day is simply an ineffective strategy to promote anti-consumerist ideals. Even though this holiday is intended to focus on helping the environment, it will have no long-lasting positive effect. Asking consumers to refrain from purchasing goods does not actually teach people anything about how their buying habits affect the environment, and many consumers will either see this day as an inconvenience or completely ignore it. Whether people purchase goods or not, most people will still have to use fossil fuels for transportation, heating and cooling their homes, cooking, and more. If people truly want to create a lasting change in the way Americans’ purchase goods, they should focus less on boycotting and instead focus on consumer education which would teach people their effect on the world and how to make smart decisions when purchasing goods.
Some people may compare Buy Nothing Day to Christmas or Thanksgiving, however, these are completely different holidays. Christmas and Thanksgiving are national holidays and days of celebration. Some stores choose to be closed on these days in order to allow their employees to spend time with their family. Some stores also choose to be open, but they raise their employees’ wages to make up for the time lost with their families. Unlike Christmas and Thanksgiving, Buy Nothing Day is not meant to be celebrated; it is meant to inform people. But why should we support it if businesses and employees are going to lose money? We can always educate people to make smart choices, but we should leave people’s incomes alone.
Making Buy Nothing Day an official holiday in the U.S. could hurt individuals whose lives depend on sales. In addition, this holiday is poorly constructed and thought out. This will not change the way people consume goods because it does not educate people about the cause they’re supposed to be fighting for on that day. This one-day strategy will also not have a significant impact on the environment because it mainly focuses on how consumer consumption harms the environment and not how simple actions like driving or cooling your house can have negative effects on the Earth. Although Buy Nothing Day brings up good points, discouraging people from purchasing goods is not the way to go. Setting up classes, making educational videos, or making commercials are better ways to promote these ideas.
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