Consumerism and simple living in a headlock

By December 05, 2007

As symbols,Cyber Monday and "Buy Nothing Day" stand for two opposite lifestyles. Because of growing concerns about our impact on the environment, the debate is a serious one that goes beyond personal life choices.   While retailer

s were busy whipping customers into a shopping frenzy after Thanksgiving, some Americans were keeping their wallets in their pockets in order to protest the orgy of consumerism that is the holiday season in the United States. The results are in and it looks like consumerism won out - again. But there are alternatives.   In the battle to attract shoppers, the National Retail Federation’s online division and its site won the first skirmish early in the day. By 10 a.m. Pacific time, the site had already attracted one million visitors, compared to 300,000 by the same time a year ago.   As opposed to Black Friday when shoppers are on holidays and predominantly hit crowded malls, Cyber Monday marks the rise of shopping-on-the-job on companies’ time and broadband connections. It makes one wonder how companies feel about that!   By the looks of it, online retailers overwhelmingly won the battle with online shoppers reportedly spending a record $733 million on Cyber Monday. This spending spree represents a 21% increase over last year and an 84% jump from the average daily online spending totals during the four weeks before Thanksgiving, according to ComScore.   Indeed, the day was nothing short of record-breaking. “Cyber Monday once again set a record with $733 million in sales, the first time a single day of online retail spending has broken the $700 million threshold,” declared comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni in a press release. “While that makes it the heaviest online shopping day on record, we expect that a number of individual shopping days during the coming weeks will surpass the Cyber Monday total, with some days potentially surpassing $800 million.” Come on, shoppers, you can do better!   For those wishing to explore alternatives to furious consumerism, here are some leads. You can check out The Simple Living Network where founder and Washington state resident Dave Wampler guides concerned consumers to “find ways of living more lightly on the earth” by making “information and resources available to those interested in changing their patterns of consumption.” As an alternative to traditional gift-giving during the holidays, adepts of simple living (also called voluntary simplicity) often practice alternative giving in the form of donations to charitable organizations.   “What would Jesus buy?” is billed as a docu-comedy. It was brought to the screen by producer Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame and director Rob VanAlkemade. The film follows a troupe of performance artists named “The Church of Stop Shopping” and their leader Reverend Billy as they cross the country in the month leading up to Christmas 2005. A war cry against the commercialization of Christmas and consumerism, the documentary opened just before Thanksgiving to good reviews.   Click To Play   With American Dream, director Joel Christian McEwen examines how Americans have become addicted to consumerism in their pursuit of happiness and the responsibility of advertising in that process. He urges his viewers to reclaim their freedom, something that is more easily said than done in a society where economic forces drive the race. The film should be out soon. Hopefully in time for the holidays. By Isabelle Boucq, for Atelier   FEEDBACK For comments on this article, email us at

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