The Father of Buy Nothing Day--Ted Dave
One day in 1991 artist Ted Dave gave birth to an international movement over a coffee and a muffin. Dave was working in downtown Vancouver when he realized that he was wasting $20 dollars a week on trifles such as coffees and muffins and that he and others should rethink their patterns on consumption. Dave decided to create Buy Nothing Day, a day for consumers to refrain from buying anything for 24 hours.Dave decided to create Buy Nothing Day, a day for consumers to refrain from buying anything for 24 hours.
In 17 years, Dave’s idea has spread around the world, with dozens of grassroots organizations finding their own unique way to celebrate the anti-consumption holiday that will take place this year on November 28. Some groups in the US dress up in sheep costumes to become "blind consumer sheep”. Others set up credit card cut-up booths encouraging people to dispense of their credit cards. In Japan, Zenta Claus, a giftless version of Santa, meditates in shopping malls.
Dave is shocked at how his creation has evolved. “I have friends who travel to Europe and bring me back things like some weather-beaten Buy Nothing Day poster from the Netherlands,” he says. “It’s a bit surreal but it’s always thrilling. The art this event has generated is wonderful. “
After initially coming up with the idea of Buy Nothing Day, Dave created a series of posters and ads in small local papers as well as organizing events. Eventually the idea was taken over by Adbusters Media Foundation, a Vancouver-based advocacy group founded by Dave’s acquaintance Kalle Lasn. Thanks to guerilla marketing and the power of the internet, Adbusters helped spread BND around the world.
Just how widely the holiday is celebrated remains unclear, however. Adbusters has no statistics on how many people worldwide actually participate in BND.
Dave believes that trying to find concrete numbers about Buy Nothing Day is beside the point. BND is not necessarily about having consumers decrease consumption for one day, it’s about having them pause to think about their consumption patterns.
Today, Dave is not heavily involved with the day he helped create. His last work connected to the event was releasing a Buy Nothing Day compilation album in 2000. Dave had a parting of the ways with Adbusters in the middle ‘90s but insists he harbors no ill will toward the organization and is happy to watch from the sidelines. “My involvement is peripheral at this point, but that’s fine,” he says. “The baby has grown up and left the nest, and I couldn’t be happier with how successful this child has become.”