The Buy Nothing movement

The Buy Nothing movement

Read about the Buy Nothing movement and answer the questions to practise and improve your reading skills.


Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.

Reading text

Social media, magazines and shop windows bombard people daily with things to buy, and British consumers are buying more clothes and shoes than ever before. Online shopping means it is easy for customers to buy without thinking, while major brands offer such cheap clothes that they can be treated like disposable items – worn two or three times and then thrown away.

In Britain, the average person spends more than £1,000 on new clothes a year, which is around four per cent of their income. That might not sound like much, but that figure hides two far more worrying trends for society and for the environment. First, a lot of that consumer spending is via credit cards. British people currently owe approximately £670 per adult to credit card companies. That's 66 per cent of the average wardrobe budget. Also, not only are people spending money they don't have, they're using it to buy things they don't need. Britain throws away 300,000 tons of clothing a year, most of which goes into landfill sites.

People might not realise they are part of the disposable clothing problem because they donate their unwanted clothes to charities. But charity shops can't sell all those unwanted clothes. 'Fast fashion' goes out of fashion as quickly as it came in and is often too poor quality to recycle; people don't want to buy it second-hand. Huge quantities end up being thrown away, and a lot of clothes that charities can't sell are sent abroad, causing even more economic and environmental problems.

However, a different trend is springing up in opposition to consumerism – the 'buy nothing' trend. The idea originated in Canada in the early 1990s and then moved to the US, where it became a rejection of the overspending and overconsumption of Black Friday and Cyber Monday during Thanksgiving weekend. On Buy Nothing Day people organise various types of protests and cut up their credit cards. Throughout the year, Buy Nothing groups organise the exchange and repair of items they already own.

The trend has now reached influencers on social media who usually share posts of clothing and make-up that they recommend for people to buy. Some YouTube stars now encourage their viewers not to buy anything at all for periods as long as a year. Two friends in Canada spent a year working towards buying only food. For the first three months they learned how to live without buying electrical goods, clothes or things for the house. For the next stage, they gave up services, for example haircuts, eating out at restaurants or buying petrol for their cars. In one year, they'd saved $55,000.

The changes they made meant two fewer cars on the roads, a reduction in plastic and paper packaging and a positive impact on the environment from all the energy saved. If everyone followed a similar plan, the results would be impressive. But even if you can't manage a full year without going shopping, you can participate in the anti-consumerist movement by refusing to buy things you don't need. Buy Nothing groups send a clear message to companies that people are no longer willing to accept the environmental and human cost of overconsumption.


Worksheet81.27 KB

Language level

Average: 4.6 (16 votes)
Do you need to improve your English reading skills?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are improving their English reading skills with our online courses.

Submitted by Geunha on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 10:23

Overspending is big problem these days. If you make the shopping list before going to the shop, it is able to prevent wasting.

Submitted by mohamad90 on Mon, 22/02/2021 - 15:11

It's a great idea. overconsumption not only changes the natural environment trends but also changes the financial trends. It enriches big companies that dominate small businesses.

Submitted by Ehsan on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 08:30

It's a great idea. In this way we can help ourselves, other humans who don't have enough money to spend, and the environment. participate in that, help the world to be pleasant.
Profile picture for user danisep

Submitted by danisep on Thu, 03/12/2020 - 20:41

I think that not buy nothing it is pretty excessive proposal but it is something, we need to find a solution because the harm to the planet would be irreversible, companies are letting the care in our hands, in market there are plastics bottles and carton bottles but we still buying plastic, so they are gonna still produce plastic. If we stop the consumption of cheap and disposable products, companies are gonna do something. And by other hand it is necessary to consume to move the economy, we can't stop buying but we need to change our consumer habits.

Submitted by Murat on Mon, 30/11/2020 - 16:06

this article is crazy. if everyone buy nothing that could be lose their job end of the month

Submitted by Ugulhan on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 07:38

It is actually true, I agree with that, but sometimes if you want to go shopping and look for some cheap shoes, maybe you will see some discounts in shops, then you will spend 10$ instead of 30$. In this change, I want to use my credit cards.

Submitted by cittàutopica on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 16:44

About the buy nothing trend I think it's an effective advertising system for making aware the people concerning the negative consequences of the consumerism, but we ought to be careful to throw the baby out with the bath water.
Profile picture for user Hennadii

Submitted by Hennadii on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 09:35

I think all of us have to pause to think about the enormous amount of garbage we produce every day. It looks like our planet will become similar to the "Wall-E" cartoon, where people live on spaceships because there is no room for us on the Earth. I think most of the stuff we buy might wasn't be produced at all. Many of them are cheap but poor quality and can be used only once. And we produce too many packings for that disposable stuff, and they are all disposable as well. Not sure "the buy nothing trend" is an answer but it's better than nothing. I think this problem must be emphasized as one of the most important to our healthy future and we should take some big steps to decline consumerism. Otherwise, I hope Elon Musk will be successful in his space expansion program )) We may need it soon

Submitted by Camilo on Fri, 09/10/2020 - 05:00

Despite it's a good proposal to reduce environmental impact, it also has its important downsides. The idea would hit different if they suggest not to be too extremist since they didn't use services that are quite useful to us and probably are the only ones we can use due to our busy lives. They should keep in mind that some bussinesses must work so that the economy remains stable and enough to provide both goods and services we need for our daily life. I find we should take Scandinavian countries' examples, where their culture is to recycle (and they include stuff we no longer use and probably single-use ones)