Just Say NO!

Below are two examples of campaigns against the global consumer economy. The first is taken from the Great River Earth Institute in the USA. Its campaign is called "Voluntary Simplicity". It wants people to live more with less, that is:

  • to have more time, meaning, joy, satisfaction, relationships, community.
  • to have less money, things, stress, competition, isolation.


The second example is taken from Adbusters, an international movement. Its campaign is called "Buy Nothing Day". The idea is to make people stop and think about what and how much they buy effects the environment and developing countries. Buy Nothing Day” started in 1993 and is now celebrated in 55 countries world wide, including Norway.


This is Voluntary Simplicity’s message to Americans:

Sometimes people believe that not being part of the consumer society is a threat to people’s jobs. Jobs, they say, depend on someone buying products so we can have economic growth in America. People who believe in voluntary simplicity disagree with this. Americans must not be shamed into spending money. Being told that we will throw people out of work if we don’t buy corporate products is not true. This is just a way to get us to spend money on things we don’t need or even want. The idea that it is un-American not to consume more and more goods is just not true, for a lot of reasons. Here are a few of them:

  • The global corporations that are behind the consumer economy are the ones taking jobs away. Automation and computerization cause much more unemployment than your decision not to buy could ever do.
  • Most jobs are created by small businesses which often have local sources and markets, not by the huge corporations driving the consumer economy. Buy local!
  • North Americans consume 30 to 60 times the amount of resources per person as people in developing countries. We cannot go on doing this. We need to find other ways to keep people working than endless and unsustainable economic growth.

Cars queueing on their way into downtown San Francisco on a Friday afternoon Cars queueing on their way into downtown San Francisco on a Friday afternoon

  • The global consumer economy takes away jobs because it views workers as an expense – the fewer, the better. In a local economy human beings would be more important than producing things. Many more jobs would be created than in today’s global economy. The recycling industry alone could create more work than logging and mining do now – particularly after all the trees and metals have been used up.
  • While the global consumer economy continues to make the entire world one market with one culture, “dropping out” can be an effective, peaceful, easy way to “just say no”. The global economy can only continue if we all continue to play the consuming game. What if a lot of us just stopped buying things? Staying out of the consumer economy sends a message: “I’m not having any, thanks.”


lock on credit card Buy Nothing Day runs the following campaign in Great Britain:

November 25th is Buy Nothing Day in Britain! It’s a day where you challenge yourself, your family and friends to switch off from shopping and tune into life. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending!

This year our message is simple, shop less – live more! The challenge is to try simple living for a day, spend time with family and friends, rather than spend money on them.

Buy Nothing Day also exposes the environmental effects of consumerism. The developed countries – only 20 % of the world population – are consuming over 80 % of the earth’s natural resources, causing environmental damage and poverty.

As consumers, we need to question the products we buy and to challenge the companies who produce them. How do they affect the environment and developing countries? It’s a big question and we should be looking for simple solutions – Buy Nothing Day is a good place to start.

Of course, Buy Nothing Day isn’t about changing your lifestyle for just one day – we want it to make a lasting relationship with your consumer conscience – maybe a life changing experience? We want people to make a commitment to consuming less, recycling more and challenging companies to clean up and be fair. The supermarket or shopping mall might offer great choices, but this shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment or developing countries.

This year, Buy Nothing Day will be biggest 24-hour stand-off from the need to shop. People in and around the UK will make a promise to themselves to take a break from shopping as a personal experiment or public statement. And the best thing is – IT’S FREE! No money needed!

There is only one rule – BUY NOTHING!




According to the articles above, what are the correct answers to the following questions?

Voluntary Simplicity:

Why do some people think they must take part in the consumer economy?

  1. They want to make more money.
  2. They want to save jobs.
  3. They like to buy things.

Why do global corporations take away peoples jobs?

  1. They fire them for being lazy.
  2. They replace them through automation.
  3. They have to let them go because they are losing money.

Why is it particularly necessary for North Americans to stop consuming?

  1. North Americans are very fat.
  2. North Americans don’t have enough money and will become poor.
  3. North Americans unfairly consume much more than people in developing counties.

Why will local economies create more jobs than the global economy?

  1. The global economy prefers profits to people.
  2. The local economy is more efficient.
  3. The local economy thinks human beings are more important than producing things.


Buy Nothing Day:

What is the challenge of Buy Nothing Day?

  1. The challenge is to hide your money where you can’t find it.
  2. The challenge is to try simple living for a day and not spend anything.
  3. The challenge is to avoid people who want to sell you things.

Why do we need to question the products we buy?

  1. They may be of bad quality.
  2. They may affect the environment and developing countries.
  3. They may talk back.

Why isn’t Buy Nothing Day about changing your lifestyle for one day?

  1. That would be too long to expect.
  2. Your lifestyle doesn’t concern them or anyone else.
  3. They want people to make a commitment to consuming less.

What is the best thing about Buy Nothing Day?

  1. It only comes once a year.
  2. It’s free.
  3. It’s not a personal experiment.



  1. What do you think would happen if we produced all our goods locally, as the voluntary simplicity campaign wishes? Would this create more jobs?
  2. Is the continued growth of the modern global consumer economy something to be feared? Consider positive and negative points and then compare notes with a classmate.
  3. Is it possible to “just say no” to the global consumer economy in Norway today? Are there other things that could be done that might be more effective?
  4. “Switch off from shopping and tune into life,” says the Buy Nothing Day campaign. What kind of life – or lifestyle – do you think they are talking about?