Buy nothing day strikes a blow for compassion

By IAN DONNIS  |  November 15, 2006

While the new GTECH Building will offer a nearby reminder of the wonders of disposable spending, those with a more skeptical take on consumerism will assemble on the State House lawn next Friday, November 24, from 10 am to 2 pm, for the annual Buy Nothing Day Coat Exchange.

The local incarnation of Buy Nothing Day, which was inspired by similar efforts elsewhere, has grown each year and it continues to get more rooted, as evidenced by how the Roger Williams Park Zoo and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation are now among the more than 60 community, environmental, and religious groups serving as cosponsors.

The purpose of the event — to symbolically question the distinctly American brand of conspicuous spending, and to offer a winter coat to those who need one — remains elegant in its simplicity.

As always, the event will be held on the State House lawn, in the shadow of the Providence Place Mall. (In event of rain or snow, the gathering spot will be St. Patrick’s School, 244 Smith St.; a separate Buy Nothing Day will be held in Pawtucket, at 175 Main St.) Those with an extra coat are encouraged to make a donation, and there is a particular need for extra large coats.

Buy Nothing Day takes place on the day after Thanksgiving since that day marks the traditional start of the holiday shopping season. About 250 coats were exchange during Rhode Island’s first Buy Nothing Day and that number has only continued to grow. “Last year was great in terms of huge numbers of volunteers — we can always use them,” notes community activist Greg Gerritt, one of the prime organizers of the event. When the group ran out of hangers, some volunteers went to the mall and returned, he says, with a few hundred more.

Buy Nothing Day originated in Canada in 1992, when the activists who publish the magazine Adbusters conceived it as a protest against how consumerism contributes to global warming, ozone holes, and toxic waste dumps. The event is also meant to highlight how, in the richest country in the world, many people do not have enough to meet their basic needs. Gerritt calls the growth of the event an unfortunate reflection of that need, but also a recognition of it by Rhode Islanders.

As evidenced by the widespread Republican losses during the November 7 election, the mood of the nation has changed significantly since the apex of President George W. Bush’s popularity a few years ago.

Still, while Gerritt considers many Americans to be very concerned about the environment, making a broader move away from the excesses of consumerism remains a tall order.

For more info, contact Gerritt at 401.331.0529, or by email at, or Phil Edmonds at 401.273.4650 or

Related: Buy Nothing Day: A good cause for tough times, The alt-candidates, December 12, 2006, More more >
  Topics: This Just In , Business, Culture and Lifestyle, George W. Bush,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
    Five years ago, when Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) launched its mission of promoting Ocean State-produced food, co-founder Noah Fulmer discovered a curious disconnection in the local food chain.
  •   TICKET TO RIDE  |  February 11, 2009
    In April 1999, two weeks after I started on the job at the Providence Phoenix , the FBI raided City Hall, formally unveiling the federal investigation that would land Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr., Rhode Island's rascal king, behind bars.
    During a news conference Tuesday afternoon in the State House rotunda, proponents of significantly expanding publicly financed elections in Rhode Island — a concept they call "Fair Elections" — cited a litany of reasons for why it would be good for the Ocean State and its citizens.
  •   THE UPSIDE OF HOPE IN RHODE ISLAND  |  January 29, 2009
    Everywhere one turns these days, there's seemingly more bad news about Rhode Island: the unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation, tops 10 percent — and the state's running out of unemployment assistance.
    Former Providence Journal reporter Jan Brogan is out with her fourth mystery, Teaser .

 See all articles by: IAN DONNIS