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Thanks for (not) shopping!?

November 19, 2009

TORONTO (November 12, 2009) – Canadian Thanksgiving may have past, but American Thanksgiving is around the corner and so is the usual mixed-messaging that comes with this time of year. What mixed-messaging you ask? Lets paint you a picture...

* Canadian Thanksgiving takes place in October and is followed by the American Thanksgiving on November 26th. This is typically the time of year when we give thanks for what we have – the material world of things as well as the important relationships in our life (family and friends).
* The American Thanksgiving is immediately followed by Black Friday on November 27th, a tradition that began in the United States and spilled into Canada. This is the official kick-off of the Christmas shopping season, that crazy, hectic time of year when we express our love for others through bought gifts and propel the profits of credit card companies and retailers via accumulated debt.
* Last comes Buy Nothing Day on November 28th, an annual, global day of reckoning for the consumer-based world we live in. Started 20 years ago by Adbusters Magazine, theyre asking tens of millions of people around the world to bring the capitalist consumption machine to a grinding – if only momentary – halt.

So in sum, give thanks for what you have then believe that it isnt enough and go out and buy all those things you want, but likely dont need, for your self and loved ones (Hey! Its that time of year.) and then buy nothing at all for one day.

Feeling like a yo-yo?

Its a confusing time for people, especially since the environment and economy are top-of-mind issues for North Americans, says Keith Treffry, Director of Communications for Earth Day Canada. On one side we constantly hear that the only way we can climb out of the current economic downturn is to buy our way out. On the other hand, it is this very act of consuming our way to prosperity that is creating such an environmental mess in the first place.

Politics, the economy and many of our social values are fuelled by consumption. In most cases, people have minimal regard for purchasing habits beyond their monetary cost and even less regard for the environmental impact of, say, the last bag of chips they ate. It is time for people to take a step back and think twice before they open their wallets. Unfortunately, the issue of responsible consumption is being overlooked by Canadian environmental organizations.

Just to be clear, states Treffry, consumption is not a bad thing. Its a necessary part of the human condition. We need to consume food to live, energy to heat our home etc. But there are ways to do it responsibly.

Who is the Responsible Consumer?
Responsible Consumers know exactly what they are buying, why they are buying it, and the impact it will have on their health, their finances and the environment. They are prosumers, instead of consumers, as they take time to research products they are interested in purchasing. With responsible consumers, there are no impulse buys, rather, planned investments.

A responsible consumer

* Asks before purchasing a product: Is this something I need or want?
* Reads labels
* Takes into account the lifecycle of a product (where it comes from; manufacturing costs; getting to market costs; end life costs)
* Researches background information on companies producing and selling the products as well as their social and environmental policies and record
* Sacrifices convenience for what is best for selves, family and others.

Its a question of how people define and perceive value. Consumers often purchase items simply because theyre on sale. They feel theyve saved money. But chances are they really didnt need the item in the first place. added Treffry. We need more prosumers out there weighing in on the side of what is needed instead of wanted.


About Earth Day Canada

Earth Day Canada (EDC), a national environmental charity founded in 1990, provides Canadians with the practical knowledge and tools they need to lessen their impact on the environment. In 2004 it was recognized as the top environmental education organization in North America, for its innovative year-round programs and educational resources, by the Washington-based North American Association for Environmental Education, the worlds largest association of environmental educators. In 2008 it was chosen as Canadas Outstanding Non-profit Organization by the Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication. EDC regularly partners with thousands of organizations in all parts of Canada.

For more information contact:
Keith Treffry
Director of Communications
Earth Day Canada
Phone: 416.599.1991 x 107

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