buy nothing christmas '03
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Buy nothing for Christmas and give a gift to Mother Earth

By Muriel Williman

From Durham Herald Sun - Durham, NC November 20, 2004

The day after Thanksgiving is known as the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. We are familiar with the scene: a sizable percentage of Americans have the day off and, like pilgrims to Mecca, they hit the streets in droves, head to the malls and get a jump on holiday shopping.

The less known counterspin, "Buy Nothing Day," is that Friday as well ( For the last several years, I have been advocating and participating in "Buy Nothing Day" as a gift to myself, to the Earth and to noncommercial nonconsumer culture.

It should be noted that Americans throw away 5 million more tons between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in any other month, and one out of three North Americans actually throws gifts into the garbage (Center for a New American Dream,

This year I am seriously considering what it would take to extend Buy Nothing Day and have a Buy Nothing Christmas. "Scrooge!" you may be saying to yourself, but wait. Consider giving yourself, your wallet and the landfill a real holiday after Thanksgiving.

Stay home, chill out, cook up some leftovers and ponder the possibility of using less stuff this holiday season.
I am not suggesting we all quit holiday shopping on the spot! Just take a moment to think about what it would be like not to shop.

Not running up your credit cards. Not standing or sitting in your car in long lines. Not wracking your brain for what to buy people who have everything they need already. Not responding to the crush of social, corporate and advertising pressure to spend, as if amount you spend is a measure of how much you care. Not spending hours in the kitchen cooking up a meal that could feed a small under-resourced community, but instead feeds only people you know though do not necessarily like ... . Feel better?

Maybe even a little excited by the prospect? You are not alone!

Buy Nothing Christmas ( is a movement started by a group of Canadian Mennonites dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas giving -- that all people are equal and the poor and oppressed should be blessed while the powerful and wealthy should be humbled to bring balance to society.

Whether one ascribes to that view or not, they encourage anyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action to participate instead of celebrating commercialism. It may take real courage to stand up to the powers that currently control your holidays.

Some tips for participating in a Buy Nothing Christmas from their Web site include sending an explanatory note such as this:

"Dear Friend, I'm finally chucking all the commercial Christmas hullabaloo. I'm curbing waste, spending less, relaxing more and making time for friends and family."


-- Make a gift -- write a card, paint a picture, mount a photo, bake some cookies.

-- Recycle an old treasure -- a book, fancy fountain pen, desk lamp, some valued item already in your possession.

-- Give a voucher for baby-sitting or a home-cooked meal; walk in the park or ride on a bike.

-- Reduce needless consumer spending by giving a gift to charity in someone's name, or draw names instead of buying for everyone.

-- Have a meal together, start traditions of sharing memories.

Gifts of time and attention are not commercial and therefore underrated. If you do buy gifts, ask yourself, "Is this something I would keep?" "Do they really want or need this item?"

Consider giving gifts from local businesses/artists/services/charitable thrift stores. These gifts support the local economy, and they also produce virtually zero waste. Other ideas about simplifying the holidays can be found on the Center for a New American Dream's Web site (

Internationalist Books will be celebrating Buy Nothing Day. To get into the spirit, visit the store on Franklin Street on Nov. 26. There will be will be an open forum for you to speak and be heard, and they will also have local poets, music, a clothing swap, food and other entertainment -- all free.

Quick holiday recycling guide:

-- Wrapping paper (as long as it is not the metallic or tissue type, and you aren't saving it for later reuse), along with other mixed paper such as gift boxes, greeting cards or junk mail, can be recycled at 11 drop-off sites throughout the county.

-- Don't put plastic bags, tissue paper or styrofoam in the bins. Unwanted gift catalogs should be recycled with magazines. Call the "800" number on the catalogs to get off their mailing list. (Most catalogs are online.)

-- Corrugated cardboard is the three-layered cardboard with a wavy inner layer. Recycle at drop-off sites. No wax-covered or pizza boxes, please! Remove packing material and flatten boxes. Bring packing peanuts to a packaging store such as UPS Stores (formerly Mailboxes Etc) for them to reuse, or look on our Web site. At the top of each page, there is a "How do I recycle ..." drop-down menu for more recycling options.

-- Batteries can be recycled at Orange County Solid Waste Convenience Centers, though rechargeable batteries can save money and reduce waste.

-- Broken, obsolete or defunct electronics can be recycled at the Orange County Landfill on Eubanks Road, Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday 7:30-noon.
Hours, locations and instructions for managing other recyclables can be found on our Web site,

By Muriel Williman, Orange County Solid Waste Management


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