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Shortcuts: How to buy nothing

By Simon Hooper for CNN
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(CNN) -- As the post-Thanksgiving rush to the stores gets underway in the U.S., Friday has been declared "Buy Nothing Day" in the U.S. and Canada. With the Christmas shopping season also in full swing, another 53 countries will also mark the occasion on Saturday. Here's how you can participate.

Buy nothing for a day? Sounds easy... Of course, you could just stay home in bed all day but that wouldn't really be entering into the spirit of the occasion. "Buy Nothing Day", or BND, is not about abstaining for 24 hours only to plunge straight back into the maelstrom of consumerism with even greater enthusiasm. Instead, it's an opportunity to reflect on the impact our spend-spend-spend culture makes on the world and the environment. Highlighting the fact that 20 percent of the world's population consume 80 percent of the planet's resources, BND organizers call the event an "instrument" to help further the sustainable development movement.

Take control of your life: Ok, so let's assume you've made it out of bed and have some plans for the day slightly more ambitious than slumping on the sofa. If you're going somewhere, you're going to need to think about transport -- even if you don't plan to fill up on gas today, using a car would go against everything BND stands for. Can you walk or cycle instead? Hopefully you have some food at home -- you're going to have to make your own lunch rather than buying a pre-packed sandwich. As for entertainment, bars, cinemas and clubs are out. You could stay home with a book or just spend time with your family. If you live alone and the prospect of an evening without company is too much to bear, then invite some friends over. Just don't ask them to bring a bottle.

Sustainability: In the longer term, BND is about encouraging shoppers to consider more carefully the impact of their consumer habits. Before buying something ask yourself if you really need it and consider a product's ecological footprint -- where it comes from, the amount of energy spent manufacturing it and whether it is recyclable or biodegradable. When you do have to shop, do so locally so the money stays in the community. You're more likely to get a friendly welcome from a local shopkeeper whose livelihood depends on your business rather than a large supermarket driven by profit margins.

Make stuff: BND may be the only cause that is not asking you to buy the wristband, but that's not stopping you making your own. And why stop there? Bake a BND cake or go to www.consumermonster.com/external link for instructions on making your own BND puppet. Plant vegetables in your garden, bake your own bread, knit your own jumper, write your own books, build your own house...there's nothing stopping you.

Swap shops: In the days before the long-forgotten caveman, the only means of conducting economic transactions was by the ancient art of bartering. Nowadays, many committed anti-shoppers are reviving that tradition by setting up their own swap shops where they can exchange tat. You can even pick up lots of stuff for absolutely nothing -- check out www.freecycle.org/external link, the perfect place for unwanted Christmas gifts. Nowadays, bartering isn't just limited to material goods but extends to services as well -- see www.barteryourservices.com/external link -- so if you've always dreamed of playing the piano with your masseuse's fingers all you need to find is a music teacher with a bad back.

What else? BND organizers suggest a number of culture-jamming events to spread the word to non-converts, such as setting up a "shopper free zone" -- "Mark out a public area and fill it with people playing games, listening to music and chilling out on sofas or chairs (inflatable furniture is good). Hand out balloons with BND written on them to the bemused onlookers" -- although they advise against doing it on private property.

But remember kids... "Your action shouldn't hinder people going about their daily business -- blockading doors or jackass style stunts don't work -- many people don't have a choice about participating in a consumer society," warn BND organizers. "Ultimately, shoppers won't listen if you treat them like the enemy."


Shoppers in the U.S. struggle under the weight of their purchases following Thanksgiving last year.

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