Monday, November 27, 2006

Buy Nothing Day

Voices speak up for simple life

While hordes of shoppers invaded the stores Friday, a much smaller group of locals spoke out against holiday consumerism. As part of International Buy Nothing Day,  Rico Lighthouse and his wife, Beth, spent the afternoon in Old Town Square serving free tea and hot chocolate and entertaining passers-by with juggling and live tunes from their musical group The Lighthouse Band. Their point, other than spreading holiday cheer, was to draw attention to Buy Nothing Day, a day which supporters urge consumers to remember the holidays should be less about buying and more about spending time with family. Rico Lighthouse said  he hopes people will try to enjoy the holidays by nurturing  personal relationships. "People should give the gift of yourself, which is often the most withheld gift in the world," he said. When they do give material gifts, he encourages people to buy from local artisans, or make the  gifts themselves so they are more meaningful. "I'm not trying to tell people, 'Don't buy stuff,' but 'Think about  what you are buying,'" he said. Buy Nothing Day started 15 years ago in Vancouver, British Columbia, not just as a backlash to holiday materialism but also to big spending throughout the year. Organizers challenge consumers to pick one day a year to live simply, spend more time with family and think about the environmental and ethical consequences of mass consumerism. In the past, local supporters have staged small protests at shopping centers in town, but Lighthouse said he was interested in gently spreading his message through cheer. Most Shoppers don't realize the social and environmental impact they have by mindlessly buying mass quantities, said Jana Six, who participated in Buy Nothing Day events in Fort Collins in the past. Six earned a master's degree in environmental education at Colorado State University and focused parts of her studies on consumerism. Mass consumerism during the holidays and throughout the year takes advantage of cheap labor and depletes natural resources and ecosystems throughout the world, said Six, who works for Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, a nonprofit environmental and social public policy institute in Denver. "We're consuming our planet to death," she said. But one local mall manager said she believes people are starting to think more about the products they buy. While many consumers continue to engage in holiday shopping frenzies, more shoppers are concerned about where  the products come from and who made them, said Cynthia Eichler, general manager of Foothills Mall. "Overall, consumers are more savvy than they used to be," she said.  "We're hearing conversations these days that you wouldn't  have heard five years ago." Even on Black Friday, shoppers  are more cognizant, she said. one way to feel good about  holiday purchases is to be a more responsible consumer,  said Wendy Poppen, manager of 10,000 Villages in Old Town  Square, which specializes in international fair trade goods. Like other fair trade organizations, Poppen's store  buys environmentally and socially friendly crafts directly from artisans cooperatives, where fair labor prices and  decent working conditions are ensured. She urges holiday  shoppers to not only ask who made their products and how,  but to consider whether they really even need the product.  "If you're going to buy something, don't just consume to consume," she said. "In reality, it's goodwill." Another opinion is to buy local, which keeps money in state and in  the hands of local employees instead of exporting it to  out of state corporations, Six said.