The Buy Nothing movement

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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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Worksheet81.27 KB

Language level

B2 English level (upper intermediate)

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.

Submitted by thuy pham on Mon, 06/12/2021 - 05:54


i think buy nothing is a great idea. we should start considering to buy what we need or what we want.

Submitted by Suraj paliwal on Thu, 21/10/2021 - 16:00


I think buying nothing is good initiative for our world. In modern days people buy lots of clothes from online or offline and they overspend on clothes. It's a not very good for environment.
I loved to going shopping but since two years I have changed.

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Submitted by zalo enrique on Tue, 08/06/2021 - 00:58

I think it is a good initiative, and we can help too, fixing some devices, avoiding to buy new things

Submitted by Andrea Valencia on Mon, 17/05/2021 - 17:25

At this moment I think that the trend of not buying anything is good because people realize that it is not necessary to buy many things, instead it is very important to help the conservation of the environment and the people who live in inequality.

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.
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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.
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Submitted by javi8 on Wed, 02/12/2020 - 12:16

In my opinion is a good idea, in order to avoid the excessive consumptions of products that we don’t need and avoid that manufactures manipulate us in this society so demanding. All this kind of campaings and consumerism generates long-term anxiety and stress to consumers since on many occasions they cannot maintain the level of consumption to which society subjects them.

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.
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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)

Submitted by Julia19 on Mon, 27/07/2020 - 15:54

I' m sure the nothing buying trend is the essential social flow. People buy things because of boredom and media's inluence even though they could live easily without it. I try to join to this idea of litle consuming and it shows me what things are realy matter in our life and it isn't buying new things.

Submitted by Aakash Jain on Thu, 18/06/2020 - 03:12

According to me, 'buy nothing trend' can not only benefit us but our environment as well. With advancement in technology, improvements in the way information is presented to people, advertisers try their best to convince people to buy products by putting up discounts, special offers, limited time offers etc.. and unfortunately, people end up buying them even if it is of no use to them. Some industries are preparing useless commodities only beacuse we are buying them. Once we stop, they also have to stop. This will help us in saving money, resources - which can be used in preparing something useful and will also reduce the amount of waste that is being generated when these commodities are of no use to us.

Submitted by jason2295 on Tue, 16/06/2020 - 15:41

I think it'd be a good method to start reducing the money you spend buying disposal clothing and the most important is that you can save your money to use it in valuable things.
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Submitted by OlaIELTS on Thu, 07/05/2020 - 02:06

The trend is a welcomed idea in as much as it has positive impact on people and the environment.

Submitted by Konul on Mon, 13/04/2020 - 17:38

i agree that i follow this trend i can save my money, but i am not sure i want to save my money while not to do something like haircut or buying items which i need. i think it depends on person himself, because he or she must understand what he/she needs or not. Generally buy nothing during the whole year is not a good idea for me

Submitted by Lau on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 21:12

I think it is a great initiative, because certainly consumerism grows more and more every day and the human being loses perspective of what is really important, to the point where he stops paying for basic services such as electricity, water, telephone, gas for compulsively buying fashionable clothes and accessories according to the season of the year. However, we have to be careful. How far Buy Nothing should go? The world advances and the idea is to simplify the life of the human being. The aim of this campaign in general is to stop spending on things that are not really necessary, I call them ¨invented needs¨, but not go to the extreme of never eating out home or cutting your hair yourself for not going to a hairdresser. The extremes are bad, the idea of ​​all this is to make you reflect on what you really need in your life, so that you do not reach consumerism, but also do not make it more uncomfortable. In the world, everyone has his role and work according to what he likes and inspires him. So is just as important who designs clothes and manufactures them to be able to dress people, as the doctor who attends a hospital. The real problem is our mentality, and this campaign can awaken our common sense, a call of conscience, without radicalizing us.

Submitted by Lau on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 20:49

I thing The Buy Nothing trend is a excellent campaign against the consumerism.

Submitted by NicoleAlbornoz on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 16:24

For me, "The buy nothing trend" its extremist. If people around the globe decide to cut all the shopping, it's going to have severe consequences on the global economy and specially on small companies. Fast fashion it's for sure a global problem. But it's most likely to make any changes if the customers demand a more honest and equal work for the employees and better quality in the final product. Also knowing that is going to make an impact on the final price. But in exchange, customer are going to get better quality products that can be use for many years. On the other hand, if magazines, publicity, marketing y fashion shows, are not wheeling to change the rules of the game, showing new trends every two weeks, it is probably that the customers are going keep the need of buying trends, and not clothes that are going to be part of a wardrobe. So, the "The buy nothing movement" its great for us to remember think twice before make any shopping. But, the world, our consumerist model of life, and the mentality needs to change to make any improvement.

Submitted by theberriz on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 16:01

I think its a great idea that could solve two essential problems in our society: First, the unnecessary consuming that leads to expending more money that we have and second, as the text says, it could help the environment.

Submitted by lifelearner on Wed, 05/02/2020 - 15:00

I believe it is a great idea as it really helps fight consumerism and overspending which is a big problem I see in my society daily where people keep buying things they don’t need to show up and replace the good items they have just for the sake of change. Othr thing I like to add is that it fights marketing companies that like to bombard consumers with advertisements of disposable unnecessary items that often goes to the landfill sites

Submitted by om mariam on Sat, 01/02/2020 - 09:08

I support this idea, it is a good sign that people consider over-consuming habit and buying things that they don’t need as one reasons of environmental problems.Beside personal problems, because when buying things became a daily habit it may develop to addiction which mean spend more money or even get in depth.All these can be avoided when people believe that they should buy what they need not what they want or to look more fashion.Children from early age should be taught buying new things will not make them happier.
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Submitted by albert9315 on Tue, 28/01/2020 - 06:25

But nothing trend is interesting topic. I think if I follow this idea, I can save a lot of money from my life- yes. but I think the people should consume some money to make up himself, right? But in order to track fashion, to waste a lot money is not good way. I think we can grow own personalities and manner without buying a lot of clothes or shoes. Tracking fashion(Fast fashion) is only for girls, I think. If the man is who has family, who have children, he should save his salary for his wife , child and family. Right? Thanks.

Submitted by Fikymaulana on Tue, 07/01/2020 - 09:27

Only buy what I really need, not buy what i want. for instance, I bought a shoes last years and it still worth to use. Meanwhile, I see on market place there is newest edition of my favorite shoes. So, I have to hold my self not to buy that shoes. It might be tough in the begining but It would be changing the consumerism behaviour.

Submitted by bsissi9 on Mon, 30/12/2019 - 12:14

I think that it's a good idea to launch the 'bye nothing trend' because people took an habit to overspend and buy a lot of things, they become addicted. So they need to return to normal which means buying just what they really need and by practicing 'buying nothing' they could control their spending.
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Submitted by Steve Zarv on Thu, 19/12/2019 - 05:38

At a first glance the "Buy Nothing" trend seems to be quite a good initiative for people to be aware of a problem that is frequently disguised as a necessity taking for granted that the modern world trends plunge people into the dejection of feeling that they are not going to feel sufficient if they don't have what the marketing campaigns tells them they are supposed to have within a shallow stereotype of consumerism based on a created bias inserted in the consent of a problem that doesn't necessarily exists.

Submitted by araheem on Fri, 01/11/2019 - 10:27

The buy nothing trend is a very good example for Asian countries. Because individuals with higher income tend to spend more amount on the products which have less value. For example, shopping websites like, Flipkart, etc. share the products which do not have much value. For instance, the decoration items for a birthday party displayed on the websites with higher prices than the items compared with the local shops. Thus, I think one must follow the buy nothing trend in order to overcome the problem.