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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Why I feel lucky to be buying nothing new

Shopping trolley filled with reuseable bags and shopping

Credit: Julie G

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You might have heard of Adbuster’s Buy Nothing Day, which happens every year in the US (where it originated) and 65 other nations worldwide. The Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday is called ‘Black Friday’, and it’s when the Christmas sales begin. Buy Nothing Day also falls on this day and, similar to the Buy Nothing Month we've had as a G challenge, it tries to present an alternative to the door-buster crowds showing up to get a bargain or ten.

I think that for G readers, a single day of buying nothing isn’t much of a challenge. We can do that easily when we decide to spend a weekend pottering in the garden or visiting family. Or on weekdays when we bring our lunches and make our own coffee at work.

Some people think a day of deliberately buying nothing is a radical challenge! They’re caught up in the consumerist mindset, where buying things is supposed to make them feel good and help the economy. The fact that shopping often fails to bring these benefits is easily overlooked by a lot of people, and it’s easy for us more sustainably-minded people to feel a bit smug about that.

But I’d like to look at another, larger, group today. There are a lot of people in the world who buy nothing for months on end, not because they’re self-sufficient or good greenies, but because they don’t have any choice. Many people in developing countries would love to be able to buy seeds to grow vegetables, or a water bottle they could reuse, or a gift for their children. Their country doesn’t have the resources for those things, and they have to make do without them.

I think that as people trying to build a more sustainable future for everyone, we need to make an effort to help people get their basic needs met. I did pretty well with my Buy Nothing New month - my exceptions were some birthday presents and some garden supplies. And my bank account is looking a little fatter. So I’ve made a donation to a charity that helps develop seed banks in developing nations - it seemed appropriate, since I was able to buy seeds so easily myself.

Now that the challenge is over, I hope to maintain my good habits by avoiding the common shopping traps. I want to be mindful of my spending, choosing wisely and sustainably and keeping to the Reduce, Repair, Reuse, Recycle mantra. And I want to remember that I’m very lucky to have the choice of spending or not spending as I feel like it... I feel grateful to be living in a country where I don’t have to struggle to find shelter, food and water and have green products available that others would consider a luxury.