Gerritt has combined "Buy Nothing Day" with a "coat exchange", an effort to help the needy make it through the rough New England winters. Michael Bonanno, assistant editor for OpEdNews, caught up with the busy Green on Sunday, April 16, and interviewed him. Bonanno wanted to learn more about the origins of this Green Rhode Island tradition and where its green (Green) pioneer would like to see it go.
Bonanno: Greg, who's idea was "Buy Nothing Day" and what inspired it?
Gerritt: "Buy Nothing Day" originally comes out of Adbusters in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Basically, Adbusters focuses on consumer culture and I think they just really got tired of watching ads.Bonanno: Which is why this day falls on the day after Thanksgiving, which, annually, is the busiest shopping and sales day in America.
Gerritt: Right. So, in Rhode Island, we looked at this and said, "We ought to do something for this event." We wanted something that not only had the political message but also was a way to give back to the community.
Bonanno: You sort of answered my next question which was going to be when did "Buy Nothing Day" turn into, for lack of a better phrase, "coat donation day"?
Gerritt: We call it "The Winter Coat Exchange" because it's exchanging them between members of the community who have them and members of the community who don't. Some people need to clean out their closets and some people need to fill their closets. It's a good swap.
We started it in 1997, so this is going to be our eleventh year
We had a meeting – The Green Party of Rhode Island – and we were wondering what would be a great way to do this, to do something for "Buy Nothing Day" and this is what we came up with.
Bonanno: It sounds as if "Buy Nothing Day" has turned into a two-parter. Which is the most important part of "Buy Nothing Day"?
Gerritt: You're right, it is a two-parter and they're equally important. We definitely are very committed to the message of reducing consumption, making people think about the issues of poverty in America, issues of the environment. Over-consumption is an environmental disaster and then there's the issue of poverty verses wealth.
Then comes the moving of coats from one part of the community to the other.
Bonanno: I know that "Buy Nothing Day" has spread from Rhode Island. How did that happen and how's that going?
Gerritt: I've put the word out. In Utah, they've started doing an event in Salt Lake City and somebody who worked with us here in Rhode Island moved to Kentucky and I think they're doing one in Louisville. There's been some talk about it elsewhere, but nobody else has really done it yet.
Bonanno: Do you think that consumerist Americans and/or corporations are getting the message?
Gerritt: The corporations aren't paying any attention whatsoever.