Buy Nothing Day at the Thirsty Camel 2008
It warmed my heart today to walk into the Thirsty Camel downtown, for a quick lunch before a haircut and library trip, and be told by Ilan (proprietor) that he was refusing to take money today because it was Buy Nothing Day. In an effort to further awareness of the absurd over-consumptive nature of our society, Ilan suggested a trade for food today. He simply asked that you offer something of equal personal significance for the meal you received.

At first I was really uncomfortable, wondering if it would be fair to exchange a yet to be determined IOU for food? What could I give him of equal value? After all, his food is kick ass. I would go so far as to say his food is the best in Nanaimo! (!!)

We ended up writing our IOU’s with promises of a book (a book which I plan on reviewing time permitting), some baking (lime sugar cookies with toasted pumpkin seeds?) and the offer of labour in a variety of ways if he needs it. Carpentry skills, gardening, moving help… whatever he needs. Lily and Leif offered the first of the painted rocks they were planning on doing later that day.

Buy Nothing Day at the Thirsty Camel 2008

I suppose the idea isn’t that the trade is “equal” so much as the importance of the actual nature of the transaction. There was thought put into our offer and there was an even greater appreciation for the meals we ate.

Buy Nothing Day at the Thirsty Camel 2008

We don’t buy a lot, especially at this upcoming time of year. We don’t give gifts at all in fact. My kids might receive a gift or two from family members who refuse to take a different approach but the holiday time is spent enjoying each other’s company and doing things together with family and friends. This approach isn’t limited to the few times of year on recognised holiday’s. This is a year round approach and one that seems most sensible.

Ilan is a good person. We are all lucky to have someone like this in our community. This is a guy that has a breast-feeding friendly establishment and No Spank sticker on the front door of his restaurant.

Buy Nothing Day at the Thirsty Camel 2008

Buy Nothing Day at the Thirsty Camel 2008

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9 Responses to Buy Nothing Day

  1. That sounds like a wonderful place!!

  2. paxye says:

    That is so cool!!

    Too bad they were closed when I was there… :)

  3. Annie says:

    It really is a great place- and just down the street from where I live!

    I know Paxye! Guess that meals you have to come back before I move. *le sigh*

  4. Sophia Sunshine says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never been there! And what an amazing way to turn a greedy, shopping frenzy kind of day into a community building one. I look forward to hearing what you get called to action for.

    I agree that the quality time spent over the holidays is the best and we’re getting close. We did a draw and are either making or find something second hand for that person. It’s almost like a gift of time really. I’m really enjoying having the time to spend on my one gift and feeling more free to spend quality time with friends. I hope you enjoy your holidays!

  5. Lindsay says:

    Wow, sounds like a great place. Next time I’m in Nanaimo I’ll have to go check it out.

  6. Ilan says:

    Hey Annie,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and appreciative post. If I may, I will expand a bit on what it was I was trying to do.
    For the past four years I have closed my doors on Buy Nothing Day ( and had signs in the windows and doors explaining why I am closed and asking people to consider their consumption habits. However, it became clear to me that when people come to the Thirsty Camel and see it closed because of Buy Nothing Day (“whatever that is”… right?), they will most likely simply go someplace else and give it little thought beyond that. So I decided to try and come up with an idea that would get people thinking deeper. The idea, simply put, was to invite people into the restaurant, serve them food and then refuse their money, asking them to bring something in return on a later date. I also refused to judge what people offered. Many people asked what their bill came to in order to calculate what they’d bring me. Or asked me if this offering or that would suffice for a falafel. To all I replied: “I do not care about the monetary value of what you bring me, I want you to judge the value of what I am giving you and bring me something that feels valuable to you. It could be a flower, a poem, a batch of cookies, homemade wine, an old book that you love or a CD of your favourite music… I will accept whatever you bring with happiness and gratitude. But do not go out and buy something to bring me for your Buy Nothing Day food. It must be made, grown or previously owned by you.”

    Personally I feel enriched by the experience and feel certain that many people left the restaurant and thought long about what had happened to them during that lunch. It was so out of the ordinary for most people that some had a hard time with the concept and tried to force me to take their money, or worse tried to come up with my angle (“is this some kind of tax write off…?” someone actually asked that!)

    Anyway, I have written enough.
    Grow Love! Manifest Community! Teach the children they are Special! Giving up is not an option!
    Shop less Live more!

  7. Kate says:

    How lovely – what a cool idea!

  8. Penelope says:

    Well, that just warms my heart. What a wonderful thing!

  9. sarah says:

    i love that! i didn’t even know it was buy nothing day. ironically, i did a ton of errands that day and bought a bunch of stuff. (but i only go to the city 1x a week so most every day is buy nothing day for me…)
    i love what that cafe owner wrote too. you are lucky to have such a neat business in your vicinity.

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