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.

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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.

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Submitted by İhsan Furkan on Thu, 16/03/2023 - 07:55


I think the buy movement is good to our environment. It saves our planet but this is not enough to make major positive affects to our environment. Big fashion companies and governments have to take action before the world is uninhabitable. For example, there can be a rule which says if you buy many clothes above the limit, you have to recycle the excessive part on your wardrobe.

Submitted by Cemill on Thu, 16/03/2023 - 07:26


The 'buy nothing' trend is really important. Because people need to put an end to their unnecessary shopping habits. Due to unnecessary shopping, nature is being destroyed and great damage is done to our world. Just as there are days and weeks that encourage shopping, there should be days or weeks that encourage living without shopping.

Submitted by Sanja on Thu, 16/02/2023 - 13:24


I usually don't bye things if they aren't necessary but I used to buy many toys for kids which is resulted in tons of plastic in the house and in the garbage. Probably it is more clever to spend quality time with children outside then bying a lot of toys they don't need actually.

Submitted by RuthYong on Thu, 18/08/2022 - 03:57


Dear team,I have questions to clarify.
Q6. Buy Nothing Day is a protest against credit cards. Why is the answer false? I thought the answer should be true based on this statement: "On Buy Nothing Day people organise various types of protests and cut up their credit cards." Please clarify.
Q7. The two friends who did the ‘buy nothing’ experiment only bought food for 12 months. Why is the answer false for this question? Based on the statement, 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.? So I thought the answer should be true.
Please clarify these two questions. Thanks

Hi RuthYong,

About Q6, I would say false. Although the text says that people do cut up their credit cards, the cards themselves are not the target of the protest. The target is unnecessary and excessive spending. Credit cards are a means of spending, but are not themselves the problem. Paragraph 4 also mentions exchanging and repairing items on Buy Nothing Day, which aren't connected to credit cards.

About Q7, it should be false too. The statement says that "Two friends in Canada spent a year working towards buying only food." "Working towards" something means that they were trying to achieve it - they had not achieved it yet. The next two sentences also show that they stopped buying things bit by bit, not all at once, so they must have bought some non-food things at the beginning of the 12-month period.

I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Jonathan, yes, thanks for the clarification. I can understand now. Thanks once again for the support.

Submitted by Noldea on Wed, 27/07/2022 - 15:07


If you go the path that the mentioned YouTube people did, that is kinda excessive. If you just cut your usual spending, it's ok! Defenitely something that people who just started their life to learn. (tho im 2k6 lol)

Submitted by Gizmoist on Wed, 05/01/2022 - 09:07


The Buy Nothing Movement is an essential part of the sustainable environment. Consuming and spending less helps us get ahead in saving our planet. However, it might also have disadvantages of them because of bad impacts on our economic and social life. Whether which way we'll choose, we should consider pros and cons.

I agree with you for your opinion about disadvantages. I also think the same way, because if people don't buy clothes or anything else the country economy will fall. And have you thought about what happens with dressmaker with sellers in stores or with their families. Always have advantages and disadvantages. I think we just should to do anything with measure.

Submitted by Abrarhussain on Mon, 06/12/2021 - 22:59


I think the buy nothing trend is good for future saving and its effects are better on the environment.